Testimony heard on Brown’s measure demanding action on a federal nuclear-waste repository

Today the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee heard testimony in support of Senate Joint Memorial 8018, a measure introduced by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, which asks Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy to establish and develop a permanent federal nuclear-waste repository.

“In order for Washington to make the most of its nuclear-power potential, the state needs a willing federal partner,” said Brown, whose 8th Legislative District includes the federal Hanford Site. “At this time there are no facilities for permanently disposing of high-level radioactive waste, and funding for development of the waste site designated for Yucca Mountain, Nevada was terminated in 2011.

“This Senate Joint Memorial simply requests that Congress, the EPA, and DOE complete their work and establish a permanent federal nuclear-waste repository.”

Brown is a state and national leader on energy issues and is the Senate’s leading advocate for nuclear power. In September she spoke at the 2019 RadWaste Summit, held in Henderson, Nev. – a national meeting of experts, industry specialists and government officials to discuss challenges and solutions to the management and disposition of radioactive waste.

Brown used the opportunity to call on the summit’s 300-plus attendees to demand federal accountability and leadership on finding a permanent, safe solution for radioactive waste disposal. She pointed out that under 1982’s Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Congress made the federal government responsible for establishing a deep geologic repository for permanent disposal of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial and defense activities.

“There is currently more than 90,000 metric tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste; yet the federal government still hasn’t adopted or executed a plan for its permanent removal and containment,” said Brown. “It’s well past time for the feds to live up to both their obligation and commitment.”

Also testifying in support of the bill was Dana Miller with the Yakama Nation, who voiced safety and environmental concerns over leaving the waste disposal question unanswered.

“It’s been our directive to remove the high-level waste from the Hanford site to a deep repository for the safest possible storage, not only at Hanford, but at all sites across the country,” Miller said. “Currently, high-level waste is being stored above ground in special containers throughout the country… At Hanford, this poses an extreme threat to the Columbia River, via groundwater, should these containers leak.”

SJM 8018 must clear the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee by Feb. 7 in order to remain eligible for passage in the Legislature’s 2020 session.