House bill seeks to spur nuclear waste solution


Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) says he’s tired of the federal government dragging its feet on plans to build a long-term repository for highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. He wants Minnesota to start applying pressure.

The lawmaker on Monday presented HF255 to the House Energy Policy Committee. It’s a bill that would direct the state’s commerce commissioner to monitor federal progress toward developing a permanent storage facility for the country’s increasing stockpile of nuclear waste and – if no progress is being made – would halt the state’s utilities from collecting a federal fee aimed at developing a national repository.

The federal government began collecting a fee from utilities and ratepayers in 1982 for the purpose of developing a long-talked about nuclear waste storehouse. But, despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars per year over three decades, plans for a geologic facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada have stalled.

“It’s now 2013,” Atkins said. “They haven’t made any progress.”

The bill would also seek to recover nearly $700 million in fees paid by Minnesota ratepayers if the commerce commissioner deems there is not adequate movement toward finding a nuclear waste storage solution.

“We’re pretty concerned (the federal government) have not fulfilled their obligation,” said Terry Pickens, Xcel Energy’s director of nuclear regulatory policy.

Monday’s hearing was informational only; no action was taken on the bill.

A companion, SF1233, sponsored by Sen. James Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul), awaits action in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.