As trumpeted by its "Gang of Four" co-sponsors (Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington State and Dianne Feinstein of California) in a press release, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2015 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Although the devil is always in the details, and further careful analysis and comparison is required, on the surface it appears that this session's bill is very similar to previous attempts in the Senate to open a "pilot" parking lot dump for commercial high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in less than a decade, followed a few years later by a full-scale parking lot dump. This included Senate Bill (S.B.) 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, about which Beyond Nuclear published a comprehensive critique of the scheme's many risks.
Targeted locations for "consolidated" or "centralized interim storage sites" have yet to be specified. However, Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, Texas -- already threatening the adjacent Ogallala Aquifer with so-called "low" level radioactive waste burials -- has volunteered to become a parking lot dump. Pro-nuclear "booster clubs" at Savannah River Site, South Carolina, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, New Mexico, and elsewhere are also blinded by radioactive dollar signs, and offering their "services."
Other top targets include nuclear power plants, such as Dresden in Illinois, as well as Native American reservations. The latter is an egregious example of environmental racism.
The press release speaks of "priority" transfers of irradiated nuclear fuel. "Stranded" or "orphaned" irradiated fuel, from permanently shutdown and even completely decommissioned nuclear power plants, would be given priority by the bill. "Emergency" transfers are also mentioned, as from on-site storage locations at risk of natural disasters.
Even the "pilot" parking lot dump would launch unprecented numbers of HLRW shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways. The full-scale parking lot dump scheme would involve even greater numbers of potential Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and dirty bombs on wheels.
However, as was made clear by the Private Fuel Storage fiasco, shipments to parking lot dumps could be "returned to sender," if permanent repository plans fall through. If 50 casks of HLRW had ever been shipped from the Maine Yankee atomic reactor and parked at the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah, they would have had to be shipped back to their point of origin when the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump was canceled by the Obama administration. A 4,000-mile round trip, all for naught -- risking radiological disaster every mile of the way, as from severe accidents or even attacks.
As described by a U.S. Department of Energy blog, the Senate bill announcement came on the same day as Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a major reversal of U.S. radioactive waste policy. Decades-old plans to "co-mingle" nuclear weapons HLRWs and commercial irradiated fuel are over. Separate repositories for permanent disposal of "defense" and commercial HLRWs will now be built. In addition, Moniz expressed full DOE support for congressional calls for "centralized interim storage" parking lot dumps.
Moniz spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center. A case study of the revolving door between government, industry, and academia, or the incenstuous nature of the nuclear establishment, Moniz served on President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) for America's Nuclear Future from 2010-12. (For that matter, the BRC was housed at DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, charged with promoting the atomic industry!) So too did former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. BRC member, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), serves at the Bipartisan Policy Center, as does the former BRC Designated Federal Officer, Timothy Frazier. (As described in his BPC bio, Frazier worked for 20 years, including in the promotional Office of Nuclear Energy, on all aspects of nuclear power and radioactive waste, and even as a nuclear weapons engineer.) John Kotek, currently DOE principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Nuclear Energy, was staff director of the BRC (see Kotek's DOE blog, linked above).