Yucca Mountain Casts a Long Shadow Over Nuclear-Waste Bill Introduced in the Senate via National Journal

The decades-long fight over Yucca Mountain looms large over draft legislation released Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators seeking to find a solution to the nation’s nuclear-waste-disposal problem.

The bill, drafted by Democratic and Republican leaders of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Energy Department, comes just as a federal appeals court is about to rule—perhaps as early as Friday—on whether it will require the federal government to resume its review of Yucca Mountain, the planned nuclear-waste repository 90 miles from Las Vegas that President Obama shut down in 2009 under heavy pressure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

No matter what the court decides, the Yucca Mountain site that Congress designated as the nuclear-waste dump in 1987 is certain to dominate debate over the legislation, which was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

The bill would shift the authority over nuclear waste from the Energy Department to a new independent agency that would seek to develop both interim storage facilities and a long-term repository for radioactive waste, now stored in a piecemeal way at nuclear-power plants and Defense Department sites throughout the country.

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