WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Tuesday praised a Senate plan to deal with nuclear waste—an alternative to the long-disputed Yucca Mountain site—calling it a "promising framework for addressing key issues."
Moniz addressed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to testify on the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, which would establish a new federal agency to manage nuclear waste, which is now overseen by Moniz's DOE. The bill would also create a pilot spent-fuel storage facility, as well as temporary storage facilities for non-priority spent fuel.
The wrangling over the use of Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a storage site has "no end in sight," Moniz testified. He continued:
Rather than continuing to spend billions of dollars more on a project that faces such strong opposition, the administration believes ... a consent-based solution for the long-term management of our used fuel and nuclear waste ... has the potential to gain the necessary public acceptance.
The bill is based on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, a panel on which Moniz served. While Moniz couldn't give the administration's official endorsement for the bill, he expressed support for the idea of a new agency to handle nuclear waste:
The administration will work with Congress to ensure that the authorization of any new body established for this purpose provides adequate authority and leadership as well as appropriate oversight and controls.
Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Moniz further on that approach, acknowledging the secretary's awkwardness in admitting that his own agency is not best suited to handle nuclear waste oversight long-term. "We do need a new organization," Moniz responded. "The keys are the authorities that go to this agency."