By Jacob Mazer, Assistant Editor, Fuel Cycle Week
In another gesture of resistance to the abandonment of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced a bill to the Senate calling for the return of funds set aside for the project to utilities and customers.
The Nuclear Waste Trust fund was created in 1982, raising money for a waste storage center using a 0.01 cent on the kilowatt rate paid by energy consumers. The fund reached about $30 billion, with about $22.6 billion now remaining after the cash sunk into Yucca Mountain.
Graham's Rebating America's Deposits Act mandates that the President to either confirm Yucca Mountain as "the preferred choice" for nuclear waste or begin to return to funds within 30 days of the bills passage. About 75% of the money would go back to customers, with the rest going toward the construction of more temporary storage facilities to hold the waste on-site at power stations until a permanent solution is established. The bill also calls for separate payments of $100 million a year to states with nuclear weapons waste stating in 2017, when Yucca was scheduled to begin holding waste. Eight other Republican senators including Arizona's John McCain co-sponsored Graham's bill.
"No one should be required to pay for an empty hole in the Nevada desert," Graham said.
If this proposition sounds a little bit far fetched to you, you're not the only one. With no Democrats backing the bill, it's hard to imagine Graham's bill going very far. Furthermore, with Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid as Yucca Mountain's fiercest opponent, finding a Democratic co-sponsor seems pretty unlikely.
Analysts were quick to point out the obvious motivation behind the legislation, being an attempt to force the Obama administration into a decision on the waste issue-- either continue with Yucca Mountain or find another solution fast (however unlikely this may be)-- rather than letting the issue linger infinitely in a limbo of blue ribbon commissions.
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