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Mulvaney introduces bill to move nuclear waste

jblake@thestate.com

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney introduced legislation this week that he says could help nuclear power plants get rid of high-level atomic waste that has built up since the government scrapped a plan to ship the material to Nevada.

Republican Mulvaney, whose district includes nuclear power plants in York and Fairfield counties, said the bill will allow the government to send highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel to an interim storage site, rather than waiting on a permanent disposal ground to open.

The federal government worked for years on a disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nev., but halted the plan after President Obama took office in 2009. The government still is wrestling with how to replace Yucca Mountain. Some lawmakers are pushing to bring Yucca Mountain back as a disposal site option, but the push is taking time.

“We’re trying to figure out an interim solution until Yucca can open,’’ Mulvaney said.

Sites in Texas and New Mexico have been discussed as possible interim sites until a permanent repository is chosen. Regardless of where an interim site would be, Mulvaney said the material should not stay in South Carolina or at power plants in other states.

Power plants “are in the power generation business,’’ he said. “They’re not supposed to be in the waste-management business. The whole idea is the best way to manage this stuff was to put it at one site.’’

Mulvaney conceded the bill has little chance of passing this year, but he wanted to get the idea before the public for debate next year.

SCE&G, which is expanding its Fairfield County nuclear plant, stores used fuel rods in pools at the site and is planning to move some of that to dry casks on the property. The company said this week it can store the material safely, but believes the federal govenment should develop a long-term disposal site.

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