WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called nuclear power a strategic asset in the nation’s fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address global climate change.
Increasing domestic nuclear power generation capabilities is vital to allowing the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to provide affordable, reliable and clean electricity to consumers, Murkowski said.
“At a time when we’re aggressively seeking ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we need to provide the nuclear industry with the assurances that we support them,” Murkowski said. “And that means we must deal with the issue of nuclear waste.”
Nuclear energy currently provides more than 70 percent of the U.S.’s emission-free electricity.
The federal government, which is legally responsible for providing a long-term repository for spent nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, has repeatedly reneged on its promise to provide a safe disposal site. The Obama administration in its budget blueprint cut funding for studying the Yucca Mountain repository site in Nevada without providing a viable alternative.
“The administration’s decision to halt development of Yucca Mountain as a waste repository, with no alternate plan for dealing with spent nuclear fuel, has the potential to seriously hinder the nuclear renaissance,” said Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
At an energy committee markup on Tuesday, Murkowski offered an amendment to Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s proposal to create a blue ribbon committee to study the issue of dealing with spent nuclear waste that would explicitly state the federal government’s support for nuclear energy.
The amendment would also have created a nuclear advisory council within the Department of Energy and established an inter-agency working group to coordinate federal programs promoting nuclear energy. The amendment would also have given the Secretary of Energy authority to enter into cost-sharing agreements with private industry, and provide benefit payments to local and state governments for hosting spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.
Murkowski said she was concerned a blue ribbon commission on its own would simply delay any real progress in addressing the nuclear waste issue.
“I’m concerned that the proposed blue ribbon commission on its own will not move quickly enough and is too narrowly focused,” she said.
The amendment failed on an 11-11 vote., with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and all 10 Republicans on the committee voting in favor of the proposal. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, did not vote on the amendment.