Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed Senate amended (07/31/1996)

Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1996 - Amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to revise it and rename it the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1996.

Instructs the Secretary of Energy (the Secretary) to: (1) develop and operate an integrated management system for the storage and permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste; (2) store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste beginning no later than November 30, 1999, at designated facilities pursuant to certain interim storage facility contracts; (3) provide for the transportation of such wastes (using systems and components procured and manufactured in the United States); and (4) engage private sector participation to the greatest extent possible in the implementation of this Act.

Shields the United States from any financial liability for the Secretary's failure to meet acceptance or emplacement deadlines under this Act.

Establishes an integrated management system for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, including its storage, transportation, and disposal.

Sets a deadline for development of the capability to commence rail to truck intermodal transfer from the mainline rail line at Caliente, Nevada, to the interim storage facility site.

Directs the Secretary to offer to enter into a prescribed benefits agreement with Lincoln County, Nevada, including a payment schedule. Requires conveyance to such County of specified Federal lands.

Prescribes procedural guidelines for the availability beginning by November 30, 1999, of: (1) safe transportation for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from sites designated by the contract holders to mainline transportation facilities using routes that minimize transportation through populated areas, and a comprehensive management plan that ensures safe transportation from sites designated by the contract holders to the interim storage facility site; and (2) public education programs for States, local governments, and Indian tribes through whose jurisdiction the Secretary plans to transport substantial amounts of spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste.

Requires a transporter of nuclear waste under contract with the Secretary to comply with all governmental and Indian tribal transportation regulations.

Instructs the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate employee protection training standards for workers directly involved in nuclear waste transportation, storage, and disposal.

Sets forth a phased schedule for the Secretary to begin operating an interim nuclear waste storage facility, but prohibiting construction activities before December 31, 1998.

Instructs the Secretary to: (1) cease all but termination activities at the Yucca Mountain site if the President determines it is unsuitable for repository development; (2) present a viability assessment of the site to the President and the Congress by a specified deadline; and (3) proceed with all activities necessary to begin acceptance of nuclear waste at an interim storage facility site designated by the President. Precludes construction activities, however, until the site has been approved by law. Prescribes two-tiered design and licensing phases for the site.

Instructs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue generally applicable standards for the protection of the public from releases of radioactive materials or radioactivity from the repository. Mandates that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) repository licensing determinations for the protection of the public be based solely upon a finding that the repository can be operated in conformance with an overall system performance standard that incorporates the Administrator's radiation protection standards.

Authorizes the Secretary to make grants (including financial and technical assistance) to enable affected Indian tribes or local governmental units to monitor and review the impact of the integrated management system upon residents at the Yucca Mountain site.

Directs the Secretary to offer an affected local government unit the opportunity to designate an on-site representative to conduct oversight activities at an interim storage facility or repository site.

Provides that acceptance of benefits under this Act by any affected Indian tribe or local government shall not be deemed an expression of consent to the siting of an interim storage facility or repository in Nevada.

Instructs the Secretary of the Interior to convey all Federal interest in specified property to Nye County, Nevada.

Prescribes contract guidelines for the Secretary to accept title to, and transport, store, and dispose of spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste for a fee. Prescribes a schedule of annual fees for electricity generated by civilian nuclear power reactors, and of a one-time fee for spent nuclear fuel used in such generation. States that payment of the latter one-time fee relieves the payer of further financial obligation to the Federal Government for its long-term storage or permanent disposal. Mandates annual fee reviews, and adjustment proposals to the Congress if appropriate.

Establishes the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management within the Department of Energy, whose Director shall be directly responsible to the Secretary for executing the Secretary's functions under this Act.

Directs the Secretary to issue a final rule establishing the appropriate portion of the costs of managing high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel allocable to the interim storage or permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste from atomic energy defense activities and spent nuclear fuel from foreign research reactors. Authorizes appropriations.

Preempts State and local law in favor of this Act and the Atomic Energy Act.

Grants U.S. courts of appeals original and exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions under this Act. Prescribes guidelines for NRC licensing hearings about facility expansions and transshipments.

Prohibits the Secretary from conducting site-specific activities for a second repository unless the Congress has specifically authorized and appropriated funds therefor.

Requires the NRC to promulgate regulatory guidelines for: (1) financial assurances for low-level radioactive waste site closures; and (2) training and qualification of civilian nuclear powerplant personnel.

Delineates an emplacement schedule for contract holders' spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

States that the Secretary's acceptance of spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste constitutes a transfer of title to the Secretary. Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) accept all spent nuclear fuel withdrawn from Dairyland Power Cooperative's La Crosse Reactor; and (2) pay for the on-site storage of such fuel until DOE removes it from the site.

Authorizes the Secretary to establish a Decommissioning Pilot Program to decommission and decontaminate the sodium-cooled fast breeder experimental test-site reactor located in northwest Arkansas. Prohibits the use of funds from the Nuclear Waste Fund for such Pilot Program.

Declares that nothing in this or any other Federal law shall be construed as a reservation of Federal water or water rights for any purpose arising under this Act. Authorizes the United States to acquire and exercise such rights, subject to certain restrictions.

Continues the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. Authorizes appropriations.

Directs the Secretary to take necessary action to improve the management of the civilian radioactive waste management program to ensure to the maximum extent its operation like a private business.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) create a value engineering function within the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management; and (2) employ, on an on-going basis, integrated performance modeling regarding site characterization.

Declares that this Act shall become effective one day after enactment.