Rep. Morris K. Udell, (D-Ariz.) chairman of the House subcommittee on energy and the environment, yesterday introduced a bill that calls for a three-year halt on new nuclear power plants.
"Simply put, I think there should be a pause before new construction is allowed to begin on plants where no construction permit application has been filed," Udall said. "My bill would amend the Atomic Energy Act to provide that no new construction permits beyond those now being processed be issued until the nuclear Regulatory Commission certifies fulfillment of certain conditions, or for three years, whichever come first."
Udall's bill has three conditions that must be met before the construction moratorium could be lifted. The most important requires new sites for nuclear plants to be moved to remote locations.
"Remote sitting is the primary factor here," Udall said. "This bill would also give the NRC new authority to review and certify the suitability of a site before an application for a construction permit has been filed to build a nuclear plant at that location."
Udall's bill also would set up a standard for determining if any progress, is being made toward solving the issue of what to do with radioactive waste. The bill would require "demonstrated progress" on locating waste burial grounds.
The bill would also give each state the right to veto any waste burial ground, but at the same time would grant the Congress the right to override a veto.
Udall's legislation would raise the liability limit on a nuclear accident from the current $560 million to $5 billion. Preminums would be paid by nuclear power plants on insurance to $20 million a year and indemnity fees to $1,000 a year for 1,000 kilowatts.
While strengthening the authority of the NBC in some areas, Udall's bill would weaken it in others. In particular, the bill would strip the NRC of its role in determining a state's electric needs while pondering a nuclear license application.
"The bill amends the Atomic Energy Act to prohibit the NBC from issuing a construction permit." Udall said, "until such time as the host state has certified that a need exists for the power from the proposed facility."
Udall's bill deviates sharply from the main recommendations of the Kennedy Commission and the NRC's outside advisory panel which urged that the five-member NRC be reoriganized into a commission directed by an administrator.
"I understand I agree with the president on this one," Udall said, "that the White House and I feel that a single administrator is not the way to go."
The bill would also create a Nuclear Saftey Board modeled along the lines of the National Transporation Saftey Board to investigate furture accidents at nuclear power plants. Udall said he believes such a board "could make a substantial contribution" to nuclear saftey.
"I know these proposals will be shot at from all sides since industry doesn't like it and others say it tilts towards industry." Udall concluded. "I must be doing something right if neither side likes it."