April 30, 2019

Cortez Masto Questions How Advanced Technology Can Reduce Nuclear Waste, Address Yucca Mountain

ENR Hearing

Washington, D.C. – At today’s hearing at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned witnesses on how emerging advanced nuclear reactor technologies can reduce nuclear waste, especially in light of repeated attempts to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. She pressed witnesses on whether America’s existing nuclear fleet can benefit from the proposed Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which examines pathways to reestablish America’s global leadership in nuclear energy technology development.

“With all due respect, the bill that you talked about that you dropped earlier today still identifies Yucca Mountain as a site and does not give the state of Nevada consent-based siting,” Cortez Masto said. “That is why I disagree with it. If all of the states were treated equally when we are looking at deep geologic storage, that’s one thing. But still, we have a policy moving forward that’s not based on sound science. Let me get to the question, and this was also a concern of mine and I think we should’ve been addressing this for the past twenty years, is what do we do with this waste? Part of the benefits of advanced nuclear reactor technologies is the reduction in nuclear waste, can you address that specifically?”

Dr. Ashley Finan replied, “I appreciate the question and the waste issue is really important. For nuclear to contribute to carbon reductions to the extent that it’s capable, we have to address this waste issue. Advanced nuclear reactors can reduce the nuclear waste quantity and the length of time that it needs to be managed, but we will still need ultimately to come to a policy that has broad support and is sustainable…I think that the nuclear industry actually manages its waste better than any other – we track it, we store it, we package it, we watch it, we keep track of it. We do a lot of managing, but we don’t have a long-term strategy.”

Cortez Masto continued, “I agree with that on the policy, and I think that’s what we should’ve been doing for the last twenty years. We’ve wasted time and money. But my question to you is this bill, and what I’m told this bill is focused, this advanced nuclear reactor technology that we want to invest in and do the R&D and move toward, has the benefit of reducing nuclear waste. Can you give me specifics on that and how it reduces it?”

Full video of this exchange is available here.