Reid and Chu to meet on nuke waste commission


WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will meet on Monday in an effort to harmonize competing proposals for a nuclear waste study commission.

Reid's office confirmed the meeting this afternoon. It came a day after Chu told reporters he was putting his proposal on hold until he consulted with Reid and others in Congress.

Chu and Reid "have the same goals in mind," a Reid spokesman said. That would be to assess alternatives to the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that the Obama administration has said is no longer an option for nuclear waste storage, the spokesman said.

The energy secretary and Reid, the Senate majority leader, have advanced competing ideas for an expert commission on nuclear waste.

The board would be asked to evaluate a variety of management ideas, including keeping radioactive spent fuel stored at power plants, gathering the material in centralized above-ground storage sites, and pressing ahead with development of technologies to recycle portions of the waste into new fuel.

Chu has said he was planning to appoint a panel administratively, and would give it a year to report back to him on possible paths forward.

On the other hand, Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., have introduced a bill to establish a nine-member panel that would be appointed by congressional leaders. The group would be given a two-year assignment.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the government relations arms of the nuclear industry, has questioned whether a commission appointed by Congress could be independent on such a thorny matter.

NEI favors an panel that would report to the Obama administration, the group's chief executive Marvin Fertel said today. Fertel said the commission could complete its work within a year.

The Reid-Ensign bill would allow Reid to appoint two members, and also the chairman in cooperation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Reid also has indicated a desire that the expert panel disregard Yucca Mountain or any other role for Nevada in any waste strategy.

After appearing before the House Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday, Chu told reporters he wanted to consult with Reid before moving forward.

"Secretary Chu stated ... that he is working with Senator Reid and other members of Congress who share the department's goal of devising a new strategy for nuclear waste disposal," DOE spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said.

 

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.