The Senate Energy Committee approved a comprehensive nuclear waste disposal bill yesterday amid Democratic protests that the highly controversial measure was being railroaded through with no advance warning.
Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) kept the voting record open much of the day to win a final 10-to-3 vote favoring the measure. Senators who had planned to offer amendments were out of town or absent, believing that no bill would be approved, and Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) voted present in order to protest McClure's tactics, he said.
The measure puts three competing waste disposal methods on essentially equal footing, a tactic likely to upset supporters of each. The three are a permanent burial site, temporary storage away from reactors and the so-called "long-term monitored retrievable storage" approach.
The permanent burial site alternative sets later deadlines than previous attempts at legislation for finding a permanent site, requiring that three possibilities be chosen by Jan. 1, 1984.
The temporary alternative would assess users of nuclear power one mill for every kilowatt hour to finance a facility that would temporarily store 2,800 metric tons of spent fuel at a central location.
The retrievable storage approach would require the Department of Energy to propose to Congress within a year a long-term storage plan so that waste could be retrieved for reprocessing or some other use. The plan is to be site-specific and complete with cost estimates.