Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate on Nuclear Waste Legislation

April 28, 1982

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

The safe and efficient disposal of nuclear waste is an issue of profound concern to all Americans. I am pleased and encouraged by the reports of bipartisan Congressional activity regarding waste legislation.

I, and all my Administration, stand ready to work with you to proceed on a bipartisan and timely basis on this most important matter, so that the Federal Government can fulfill its responsibilities for safe and efficient disposal of nuclear waste.

I believe that we all agree that first and foremost in any consideration of this issue is the fundamental need to protect the health and safety of all our citizens. We must also mitigate possible harm to our environment. With these prerequisites in mind, I urge early legislative action so that we may clear the way for continued development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

On October 8, 1981, I announced several policy initiatives regarding nuclear energy. My Administration is currently working to implement these initiatives. Consistent with these initiatives, and in order to take advantage of the inherent efficiency in the private sector, (benefiting the electricity ratepayer in the long run), nuclear waste legislation should be adopted soon, containing the following elements:

(1) A system of user fees to fund the construction and operation of high-level nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities.

(2) An appropriate and effective method for State governments to participate in resolving site selection issues involved in the licensing and deployment of waste disposal facilities.

(3) A temporary storage facility, financed from user revenues, to relieve the near-term problem of exhaustion of spent fuel storage capacity at some operating plants. This facility should be subject to appropriate limitations on quantity of fuel and time of residence, perhaps 5 - 7 years, to ensure that it cannot be a substitute for longer term and permanent facilities.

(4) A federally owned and operated permanent repository for disposal of high-level radioactive waste to be available at the earliest practicable date. A federally owned and operated monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility should be considered strongly for long-term storage in the interim period prior to operation of a permanent repository.

(5) Application to civilian-generated waste only, since military nuclear waste will be addressed separately.

To ensure efficiency and safety, nuclear waste legislation should require title transfer to the Federal Government, at a date certain, of vitrified high-level waste at the receiving facility. Alternatively, if vitrification facilities are not yet in operation, the Federal Government will take title to encapsulated spent fuel. This will fix responsibility and provide a firm basis for construction and operation of facilities for nuclear waste storage and disposal financed from user revenues.

These federal actions are consistent with our basic effort to encourage private sector reprocessing in order to provide access to significant remaining fuel value for future generations as well as significantly reduce the volume of high-level waste.

The American people desire the safe disposal of nuclear waste. The necessary technology is available and scientific and engineering expertise exists to accomplish this goal. Federal legislation is required to assure a safe, effective solution for the disposal of nuclear waste at the earliest practicable time. I urge early consideration by both Houses of Congress and prompt enactment of legislation that will allow us to move ahead and deal with this issue in a timely and responsible manner.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, and George Bush, President of the Senate.