House Passes Nuclear Waste Bill To Revive Yucca Mountain / by Norris McDonald

EHJ President Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2005

EHJ President Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2005

On May 10, 2018, the House  approved a bill (H.R. 3053 - Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017) to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.  The bill would help solve a nuclear-waste storage problem that has festered for more than three decades.  The House approved the bill, 340-72, sending the measure to the Senate, where Nevada’s two senators have vowed to block it.

More than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants sit idle in 121 communities across 39 states. 

The bill directs the Energy Department to continue a licensing process for Yucca Mountain while also moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas.


This bill amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to initiate a program to consolidate and temporarily store commercial spent nuclear fuel during the development, construction, and operation of a permanent nuclear waste repository.

The bill addresses federal land withdrawal and related management issues, including the permanent withdrawal of specific federal land for repository use by DOE, updating the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing process and conditions for the repository, and limiting activities relating to developing a separate defense waste repository used for storing high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel derived from the atomic energy defense activities of DOE.

DOE may enter into agreements to provide benefits to state, local, and Tribal governments that might host or be affected by facilities related to storing nuclear waste.

The bill revises the method by which DOE funds its nuclear waste management activities though the collection and usage of the Nuclear Waste Fund.