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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



S. 1194. A bill to direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to establish guidelines and procedures for tracking, controlling, and accounting for individual spent fuel rods and segments; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today I introduce a bill that is long overdue and would require American nuclear power plants to follow the same procedures that we would like to impose on nuclear power plants in other countries.

Each year, the Nation's nuclear power plants produce over 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel, which is the used fuel that is periodically removed from nuclear reactors. According to the Government Accountability Office, GAO, spent nuclear fuel is ``one of the most hazardous materials made by humans.'' Within minutes, the intense radiation in the fuel can kill a person without protective shielding; in smaller doses, the fuel can cause cancer.

In the hands of terrorists, such highly radioactive materials, when coupled with conventional explosives, could be turned into a dirty bomb that could pose a critical threat to public safety.

In April of this year, GAO issued a report concluding that ``[n]uclear power plants' performance in controlling and accounting for spent nuclear fuel has been uneven.'' In recent years, three U.S. nuclear power plants--Millstone, Vermont Yankee, and Humboldt Bay--have reported missing spent fuel. The Millstone fuel was never located, the Vermont Yankee fuel was located three months later in a different location, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is still investigating the missing Humboldt Bay fuel. In all three cases, the missing spent fuel had been contained in loose fuel rods or fuel rod segments.

Currently, NRC provides little or no guidance on how nuclear power plants should conduct physical inventories of their spent fuel or how they must control, store, and account for loose spent fuel rods and fragments. NRC also does not conduct routine inspections to monitor compliance with regulations relating to spent fuel.

As a result of its investigation, GAO made a series of recommendations for how NRC should improve its regulation and oversight. My bill--the Spent Nuclear Fuel Tracking and Accountability Act--would implement those recommendations and require NRC to establish: 1. specific and uniform guidelines for tracking, controlling, and accounting for spent fuel rods or segments; and 2. uniform inspection procedures to verify compliance with these guidelines. Within six months, NRC would be required to report to Congress on its progress in establishing these guidelines.

Tracking spent nuclear material used in the United States is just as important as tracking spent nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. This is a common-sense solution to an important problem.

I urge my colleagues to support this measure.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 1194


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