The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is required by federal law to report to the Congress regarding the strategy for management of SNF based upon the recommendations in the final report of the U.S. Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC). The report is supposed to be submitted within 6 months of the issuance of the BRC’s final report. Since the BRC issued its final report on January 26, 2012, that makes DOE’s report to the Congress due on or before July 26, 2012.
On February 15, 2012, DOE Secretary Chu announced that he had established an internal working group to analyze the BRC recommendations, to develop a strategy that builds on the work of the BRC, and to prepare the required report to Congress. The working group is led by Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, DOE’s Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation, and he will report directly to Pete Lyons, DOE’s Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy. Other members of the working group include representatives from DOE’s offices of environmental management, nuclear energy, general counsel, finance, and congressional and intergovernmental affairs, as well as the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The development of the Congressional report within DOE occurs in three tiers of work and review. First, the internal working group will prepare its findings and recommendations. Second, the product prepared by the working group will be reviewed by a steering committee comprised of deputies from the participating offices. Third, above the steering group is a decision-level policy council coordinated by Pete Lyons and consisting of the principals from the participating offices. In testimony before the Energy and Water Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 7, 2012, Dr. Lyons was asked about the odds of the report being ready by August 1st:
DOE’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012 includes $59.65 million for SNF research and development. The money will be used, in part, to identify alternatives for long-term storage of SNF and to conduct associated scientific research and technology development. In addition, DOE is looking at the development and licensing of standardized transportation, storage, and disposal canisters and casks, as well as the evaluation of management alternatives for SNF, including possible partnership mechanisms. DOE has acknowledged that work analyzing the BRC recommendations and developing a strategy that builds upon them fits within its currently budgeted program activities. Similar program activities, with essentially the same total budget, have been proposed for Fiscal Year 2013.