'Next steps' for nuclear waste storage strategy teased by energy secretary

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May 20—Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday said she and others are invested in finding a near-term answer to the nation's nuclear waste conundrum, describing the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada as "not a workable solution."

Instead, Granholm said in testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, officials are now pursuing a strategy for a consent-based interim storage facility. The hope, she continued, is "to announce our next steps with this process in the coming months."

Those steps could include issuing requests for information and establishing a funding mechanism "for interested communities and organizations and tribal governments to, perhaps, explore the concept" of such a storage facility in their backyards, the energy secretary explained.

Granholm has previously said the Biden administration does not support the use of Yucca Mountain, which was decades ago identified as a potential U.S. nuclear storehouse, where some of the most hazardous wastes could be entombed. The project — a political lightning rod — fizzled under the Obama administration and continued to flatline under the Trump administration, despite some contradictory budget requests.

"Years of inaction," Granholm said Wednesday, have rendered the repository impracticable.

Nuclear wastes are currently stored — or are stranded — at dozens of places across the U.S., including the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department reservation south of Aiken and near New Ellenton.

Some South Carolina lawmakers, namely Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican representing the state's 3rd Congressional District, see Yucca Mountain as the lawful answer to the waste-disposal question.

"The permanent nuclear waste repository was promised to the American people by the federal government years ago, and since then ratepayers across the country have paid billions to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Waste Fund to make Yucca Mountain a reality," the congressman said in a statement early last year. "South Carolina ratepayers alone have paid $3 billion, including interest, to permanently dispose used nuclear fuel at the site."

Duncan did not question Granholm about Yucca Mountain during Wednesday's subcommittee hearing.