The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future released a report that urges policymakers to quickly find at least one site to permanently store the nation's high level nuclear waste.
About 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is currently stored at 75 nuclear reactors around the country because no central storage site could be found that didn't encounter strong resistance.
Seeking to end the nation's impasse on nuclear waste policy, the report calls for development of consolidated interim storage sites to handle the waste that's piling up at the nation's nuclear reactors.
It also recommends that a separate agency be formed that would be responsible for nuclear waste management, rather than housing it within the Department of Energy.
For decades, Congress has tried unsuccessfully to find an appropriate site to store the radioactive waste. They settled on Yucca Mountain in Nevada back in 1987, but the state has pushed back against it.
The commission, which was created by President Obama, says:
"The need for a new strategy is urgent, not just to address these damages and costs but because this generation has a fundamental, ethical obligation to avoid burdening future generations with the entire task of finding a safe, permanent solution for managing hazardous nuclear materials they had no part in creating," the report says.
The commission recommends that policymakers use a "consent-based approach," where states and communities would have input on whether they want to house a storage facility.
A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing on the report February 1, to be followed by a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing the next day.
"We have a lot of issues to address - not just the need for a long-term repository, but also transportation safety issues, the federal government's contractual liability and the need to consolidate and prioritize the existing temporary storage facilities - and I'll be looking to the commission for guidance as we consider
possible legislative action," says Sen. Lisa Murkowski
(R-AL), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.