WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill intended to hasten nuclear waste cleanup efforts passed the U.S. House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support on Thursday.
“The Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, just up the mighty Columbia River from where I live and where I grew up, helped us win World War II," said Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River). "The site’s nuclear program was instrumental in projecting peace through strength throughout the Cold War. While the community has been a constructive partner in support of our vital national security missions, it did not agree to serve as a perpetual storage site for the resulting nuclear waste.”
At the core of the bill is an initiative to revive the idling Yucca Mountain project—creating a permanent repository for the nation's nuclear waste at a relatively remote desert region in Nevada, adjacent to a nuclear testing site.
The Yucca Mountain project stalled during the Obama Administration amid opposition (primarily from parties local to Nevada or the area nearby Yucca Mountain). At the time, the administration hoped to find an alternative site.
“56 millions of gallons of this toxic waste are sitting in decades-old metal tanks at Hanford—like the ones pictured here. The amount of waste stored at Hanford could fill the entire House Chamber 20 times," said Walden.
"According to a recent GAO report, the oldest of these tanks, some of which date back to the 1940s, have single-layer walls, or shells; and were built to last about 20 years. They will be almost 100 years old by the estimated end of waste treatment. The Department of Energy has reported that 67 of these tanks are assumed or are known to have leaked waste into the soil. There is an understandable sense of urgency behind the cleanup efforts underway at Hanford.”
The bill, known as the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (H.R. 3053) passed Walden's House Energy and Commerce Committee in a 49-4 vote last year. It passed the House at large on Thursday in a 340-72 vote.
Currently, spent nuclear fuel is in temporary storage at sites like Hanford in 121 communities across 39 states.