Coalition Calls for Action by U.S. Department of Energy

NWSC Letter to Secretary Granholm Recommends Actions on Nuclear Waste

March 10, 2021 – The Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition (NWSC or Coalition)[i] today sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm that, among other things, relayed NWSC members’ growing frustration with both federal government inaction to properly manage nuclear waste from commercial reactor sites and with the consequences of that inaction.  The primary goal of the letter was to seek an opportunity to work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and in that spirit, the NWSC offered several specific recommendations for DOE action, particularly given recent additional funding from Congress.

Echoing the Coalition’s “Call for Action” message in their recent letter to President Biden, the NWSC’s letter to Secretary Granholm called for the federal government to immediately reestablish a national integrated nuclear waste management program and simultaneously reform the federal budgetary treatment of the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) to provide sustainable annual access to the $43 billion balance and accumulating future interest for program implementation. 

Regarding her first communication to DOE as NWSC Chair, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Chair Katie Sieben emphasized those paying the price for federal government inaction.  “Tribal and local communities in 34 states are storing commercial nuclear waste, some already for decades longer than the federal government promised them,” said Chair Sieben.  “This situation has caused untenable, costly consequences for taxpayers, utility customers, and utilities, and a course correction is needed. We respectfully request Secretary Granholm’s assistance.”

Referencing Fiscal Year 2021 Congressional appropriations, which included $27.5 million newly appropriated for “nuclear waste disposal activities,” as well as continued funding for Integrated Waste Management Systems and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition R&D programs, the NWSC asked DOE Secretary Granholm to consider taking these recommended actions:

  • Use all available resources to support the reform of the federal budgetary treatment of the NWF, and call upon Congress to provide sustainable annual access to the NWF, which is critical to reestablishing an effective national integrated nuclear waste management program.
  • Use all available resources, including those newly appropriated in FY 2021, to support reestablishment of a national integrated nuclear waste management program (storage, transport, and disposal), including to:
    • Immediately reestablish an office within DOE to focus on matters related to nuclear waste management;
    • Simultaneously pursue permanent disposal and a consolidated interim storage (CIS) pilot with priority for shutdown reactor fuel;
    • Continue and expand upon constructive DOE initiatives related to transportation infrastructure that will be necessary regardless of destination; and
    • Increase financial and technical assistance to tribal, state, and local governments.
    • Seek all necessary additional resources in DOE’s FY 2022 budget request to continue and expand upon these priorities in support of the Call for Action.

By acting on the recommendations outlined above, Secretary Granholm has an opportunity to break the logjam on—and even make meaningful progress toward—nuclear waste disposal; to provide assurance to our host states and communities that DOE indeed plans to honor its commitments to remove nuclear waste; and to protect millions of electric consumers and all taxpayers from additional unnecessary costs. 

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[i] The Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition is an ad hoc organization representing the collective interests of member state utility regulators, consumer advocates, attorneys general, and radiation control officials; tribal governments; local governments; electric utilities with operating and/or shutdown nuclear reactors; and other experts on nuclear waste policy matters.  For over two decades, we have called for the Department of Energy to remove and ultimately dispose of commercial nuclear waste in accordance with federal law and contracts with electric utilities.

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