Republican Congressmen Michael Crapo of Idaho and Joe Skeen of New Mexico have introduced legislation to speed up the opening of the New Mexico dump for low-level-but-long-lasting radioactive waste.
“We need to remove the roadblocks that have prevented the opening,” said Crapo, whose district includes the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory where much of the waste destined for the dump is currently stored.
Skeen and Crapo said the bill introduced on Wednesday would have the Department of Energy rather than the Environmental Protection Agency certify that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant complies with environmental laws.
The underground dump near Carlsbad that would hold defense industry waste including tons now stored at the INEL is currently scheduled to open in 1998.
But Skeen said his bill would reduce what both agencies must do to prepare the dump for opening. He emphasized that it would still leave the EPA with some authority.
The Energy Department would still need permits from the EPA as well as from New Mexico environmental regulators, whose requirements are broad enough to include any further conditions implemented after opening.
Another part of the bill would reduce from two months to one the time allowed for an EPA review of the Energy Department’s compliance application and eliminate a 180-day waiting period after compliance certification before the dump could open.
“Once the DOE has demonstrated compliance, there is no reason to sit around for six months before starting operations,” Skeen said. “It is far more important to begin transferring the wastes from the generating sites around the country.”