NUCLEAR POWER:

Senate GOP to offer plan for industry incentives, reprocessing

The top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will offer an amendment to create incentives to build new nuclear reactors and reprocessing facilities at tomorrow's markup of comprehensive energy legislation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) amendment would increase incentives for the construction of new nuclear units by expanding the production tax credit offered in the 2005 Energy Policy Act from 6,000 megawatts to 12,000 megawatts. That would allow about 10 more reactors to benefit from the incentive. It would also create a 10 percent tax credit for construction expenditures for advanced nuclear reactors, according to Murkowski's office.

It would create a cost-share program with DOE for the licensing and engineering design for two full-scale reprocessing facilities, he said.

The amendment will be offered during tomorrow's marathon markup session the committee will hold to consider legislation on nuclear waste, transmission siting and a clean energy finance administration that will eventually be a part of a comprehensive energy bill (E&E Daily, May 4).

A revised draft from Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) released today gives an 11-member commission selected by the president two years to study solutions to handle the nation's nuclear waste and the review of the Yucca Mountain selection and site characterization for "lessons learned" for future projects.

But it also would have the commission determine measures "necessary or advisable" to support industry efforts to obtain a license for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, explore the option of placing nuclear waste management in a private corporation or other federal entity, and examine management of the Nuclear Waste Fund.

Murkowski's alternative would include more "timelines and targets" for a commission, an advisory council for the secretary of the Energy Department including industry perspectives, and a working group chaired by the DOE secretary, and it would make sure the Nuclear Regulatory Commission review of DOE's license for the Yucca Mountain site is fully funded, said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski.

"I think a blue-ribbon commission kicks the can down the road in terms of nuclear policy," Murkowski said. "What the chairman is proposing with his blue ribbon commission is just 'We are going to continue to study this.' Well, we have been studying this for 20 years. The issue is still unresolved, and from the industry's perspective, that is not encouraging," she said.

Murkowski said the more comprehensive approach to nuclear energy would create a more "meaningful" comprehensive energy bill.

"I think it is imperative that we offer more in terms of a policy statement on where we go with nuclear in this country," she said. "We want to advance something that states very clearly that nuclear is a part of that policy, and we need to be up-front and rational about how we deal with the waste issues."

There also may be an amendment tomorrow from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dealing with taxpayer liability issues and refunding fees that consumers have paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund to construct a geologic repository. McCain, however, may miss the markup if the Senate is debating the Defense Department procurement bill at the same time.

Click here to read the revised draft.