Energy Department proposes $60 million for nuclear waste

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Energy is proposing to spend $60 million to start carrying out the advice of experts who have recommended new strategies for managing nuclear waste, according to officials and budget documents released Monday.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the department’s budget for fiscal 2013 is in alignment with the nuclear waste commission that issued its findings last month.

“We are taking them very seriously,” Chu said at a budget briefing.

Officials have said the department has begun re-evaluating research on how highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel can be packaged, transported and stored after the Obama administration terminated the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

The proposed 2013 work plan “builds on these efforts,” including initiating conceptual research on how a new repository might be designed, according to budget papers.

Energy Department spokeswoman Karissa Marcum said the department will gather materials that can be shared with communities interested in hosting an interim nuclear waste site, one of the commission’s recommendations.

The proposed spending for nuclear waste is a “baby step” in a new direction, said Brian O’Connell, an adviser to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He said it also reflects a tight budget at the department, where the Office of Nuclear Energy budget is 10.3 percent below what Congress approved last year.

The Energy Department’s overall $27.2 billion budget was sent to Capitol Hill as part of the Obama administration’s $3.8 trillion blueprint for the fiscal year that starts in October.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760.