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Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Prohibits Federal Funding For Private Interim Nuclear Waste Storage

The legislation is being introduced to prevent Consolidated Interim Storage Facilities from becoming de facto permanent sites

WASHINGTON (March 2, 2022) – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and August Plfuger (R-Texas) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to prevent private interim nuclear waste storage sites from becoming de facto permanent nuclear waste storage facilities. Both New Mexico and Texas have objected to the placement of these storage facilities in their states.

The legislation prohibits the use of federal funds from being used to carry out any activities that would lead to the development of an interim storage facility owned or operated by a private company. Private storage companies can stand to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cash flow through the federal Judgement Fund. This legislation would prohibit private facilities from receiving those payments and requires the prohibition to remain in place until a permanent repository is available to accept spent nuclear fuel SNF.

“Until the Department of Energy fulfills its statutory responsibility to provide permanent waste disposal, interim sites can become permanent sites. That is not something my state is signed up for,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “That’s why I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation to prevent New Mexico from ending up with a long-term nuclear waste storage problem that was supposed to be a short-term solution.” 

“Nuclear energy can be reliable, affordable, and a great way to meet growing energy demands. This bill would prevent temporary nuclear storage from being built and transported in Texas and elsewhere, funded by fees intended for permanent storage,” said Cruz. “Congress needs to implement permanent nuclear waste solutions, not settle for interim storage that concerns Texas communities.”

“Nuevo Mexicanos are no strangers to environmental injustices, especially those related to nuclear testing and waste. We have a responsibility to protect our communities, environment, and industries. This bicameral, bipartisan bill will make sure that our beautiful home does not become a de facto dumping ground for nuclear waste.” said Leger Fernández. 

“It is long overdue for the federal government to locate a permanent repository for our nation’s nuclear waste. We must send this dangerous material to a final resting place—not increase risk with an interim site. I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, and the Senate, to champion this effort to keep nuclear waste out of our communities in the Permian Basin,” said Pfluger.

"Given that any 'interim' storage facility would be an indefinite storage facility, the risks for New Mexicans, our natural resources, and our economy are too high," said New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. "The establishment of an interim storage facility in New Mexico would be economic malpractice. I applaud the members of New Mexico's congressional delegation for taking action to prevent unnecessary risks being posed to our communities, our environment, and our economy." 

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 requires the Secretary of Energy to establish a repository for the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). The repository would be subject to licensing and regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Two private storage companies have submitted license applications to site, construct, and operate consolidated interim – not permanent - storage facilities in New Mexico and Texas. The NRC has already granted a license to Interim Storage Partners (ISP) in Texas and is expecting to release its licensing decision for Holtec for the New Mexico facility this year.

The legislation also requires the U.S. Department of Energy to submit a report on possible locations, or a description of a possible siting process, for future federal consolidated interim storage facilities and repositories of spent nuclear fuel. The bill does not:

  • Prevent any governmental agency charged with the mission to consolidate, store, and dispose of SNF and related radioactive wastes from engaging in that mission to the extent allowed by the existing federal law.
  • Prevent the movement of private nuclear generator SNF from one existing (10 CFR 72-licensed) Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) to another existing (10 CFR 72 or 10 CFR 50-licensed) ISFSI. 

U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) is an original cosponsor in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) is an original cosponsor in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read the full text of the bill by clicking here.