Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed Senate amended (04/15/1997)

Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997 - Amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to revise and rename it the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997.

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 18 months after issuance of a license for a specified interim storage facility; (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 of safe transportation for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from sites designated by the contract holders to mainline transportation facilities and from mainline transportation facilities to the interim storage facility or repository, using routes that minimize transportation through populated areas. Requires development of a comprehensive management plan that ensures safe transportation from sites designated by the contract holders to the interim storage facility site not later than 24 months after the Secretary submits a license application for an interim storage facility, and after an opportunity for public comment.

Prescribes guidelines under which the Secretary shall: (1) develop a transportation plan for the implementation of each shipping campaign from each site at which high-level nuclear waste is stored; and (2) evaluate the relative safety of proposed shipping routes and modes from each shipping origin to the interim storage facility or repository compared with the safety of alternative modes and routes.

Prescribes general transportation requirements, including technical assistance and funds for: (1) States, Indian tribes, and nonprofit employee and joint labor-management organizations for worker health and safety training and education programs; and (2) emergency response situations.

Prohibits shipments of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste through any grant-eligible jurisdiction: (1) until the Secretary has determined that personnel in all State, local, and tribal jurisdictions on primary and alternative shipping routes have met acceptable standards of training for emergency responses to accidents involving spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste; and (2) unless technical assistance and funds to implement safe transportation procedures and emergency response situations have been available for at least three years prior to shipment.

Directs the Secretary to award grants to States and Indian tribes for development and implementation of plans to prepare for such shipments.

Mandates 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.

Requires the Secretary to provide to the President and the Congress a viability assessment of the Yucca Mountain site by a specified deadline. Prescribes assessment contents.

Authorizes the President to make a determination in his or her sole and unreviewable discretion, disqualifying such site as a repository based upon the President's views that the preponderance of information indicates it is unsuitable for development of a repository of useful size. Mandates a preliminary Secretarial designation of a specific interim storage facility site if the President does not make a determination of unsuitability.

Sets a deadline by which the President must designate a site for construction of an interim storage facility following a determination of unsuitability for the Yucca Mountain site. Precludes from designation for construction of an interim storage facility: (1) the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the State of Washington; (2) the Savannah River Site and Barnwell County in South Carolina; and (3) the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

Requires the Secretary to make a preliminary designation of a specific site within Area 25 of the Nevada Test Site for planning and construction of an interim storage facility if the President does not make a determination of Yucca Mountain unsuitability by the deadline. Deems such site approved by law as the interim storage facility site if: (1) the President does not designate a construction site for such a facility; or (2) such construction is not approved by law within 24 months of the President's determination of Yucca Mountain unsuitability for the repository.

Directs the Secretary to submit a topical safety analysis report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) containing a generic design for the facility. Sets a deadline by which the NRC must issue a safety evaluation report approving or disapproving such design. Prescribes authorization guidelines for non-site-specific and site- specific activities for an interim storage facility, and for a permanent repository, including: (1) licensing standards; (2) compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act; and (3) land withdrawal.

Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) make grants 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; and (2) offer financial and technical assistance, as well as payments in lieu of taxes, to help a tribe or local governmental unit to mitigate such impact.

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. Prescribes a schedule of annual fees payable to the Secretary of Energy for electricity generated and sold 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 of spent fuel or waste derived from spent nuclear fuel used to generate electricity in a civilian power reactor before January 7, 1983. Mandates annual fee reviews, and adjustment proposals to the Congress if appropriate.

Continues the Nuclear Waste Fund.

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. Identifies subjects expressly preempted.

Grants U.S. courts of appeals original and exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions under this Act. Prescribes guidelines for NRC licensing hearings regarding 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 for them.

Requires the NRC to promulgate regulatory guidelines for: (1) financial arrangements 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 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.

Authorizes the NRC to establish licensing procedures for any technology for the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel without, to the maximum extent possible, the need for site-specific NRC approvals.

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.

Expresses the sense of the Senate that: (1) the Secretary and the petitioners in Northern States Power (Minnesota), v. Department of Energy, should enter into a settlement agreement to resolve the issues pending before the United States Court of Appeals before enactment of this Act; and (2) elderly and disabled legal immigrants who are unable to work should receive assistance essential to their well-being, and that the President, Congress, the States, and faith-based and other organizations should continue to work together toward that end.