Legislature looking at changes on permitting for out-of-state nuclear waste disposal

Dec 11, 2017

ND Industrial Commission meeting 12/4/17.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Later this week, an interim Legislative committee will be looking at a new bill draft concerning how the state responds when the Department of Energy nominates a site in North Dakota for a potential nuclear waste disposal site.

This is in reaction to DOE’s partnering with the Energy and Environmental Research Center to drill “test holes” in Pierce County for a potential disposal site. But DOE didn’t tell local authorities about it.

The Legislature currently has the power to reject the site. But the law doesn’t address what happens when the Legislature is not in session.

State geologist Ed Murphy told the North Dakota Industrial Commission the bill draft would give the Commission the authority to issue any testing permits, as well as the authority to deny the project, if the Legislature is out of session. Murphy said he took the bill draft further, to set up a high-level radioactive waste advisory council, involving a number of state agencies, as well as local government representatives.

"The Secretary of Energy notifies the President," Murphy told the Commission. "The President would notify the Governor of the proposed facility, and the state would have 60 days to respond with a notice of disapproval. But you have to have a reason -- and that's why we set up this advisory council."

Murphy said the council could also be useful to the state Legislature, if it’s in session and has the jurisdiction during that time.

The Legislature' interim Natural Resources Committee will look at the proposal Wednesday (12/13/17).