CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 515 under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 515 was introduced on January 14, 2009, by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). The Committee on Energy and Commerce approved the bill by a vote of 34-12 on November 19, 2009.
H.R. 515 would prohibit the importation of low-level radioactive waste into the U.S. subject to limited exceptions for federal or military facilities, or for U.S.-origin material that has been shipped abroad for use in a foreign country and is being returned to the U.S. for management and disposal. Specifically, the bill prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from issuing licenses authorizing the importation of such materials as described above. A license not permitted under the bill that was issued before enactment may continue in effect, but would not be able for extension or amendment regarding the amount of material permitted to be imported.
H.R. 515 was opposed by several Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Some Members may be concerned that this legislation is unnecessary and may prevent U.S. companies from competing in the global market for nuclear services. The NRC currently has a legal and regulatory framework for importing waste, and it is not clear that the existing regime needs to be changed, according to the Dissenting Minority Views of Committee Republicans. Members may further be concerned that the bill burdens the U.S. nuclear industry at a time when the Administration and Congress is pursuing climate change legislation.
According to Committee Republicans, "This proposed legislation would effectively prevent U.S. companies from competing for certain foreign contracts that could create jobs in the U.S. and result in substantial revenues for the U.S. economy. In an era of record high unemployment and a struggling economy, we strongly oppose legislation that erects new trade barriers that put our own companies at a competitive disadvantage in the international nuclear arena. We believe the U.S. can and should seek to be a leader in the construction, operation, and ultimate decommissioning of new nuclear plants around the world."
In the Energy and Commerce Committee, an amendment offered by Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) was defeated largely along party lines by a vote of 17-26. The amendment would have required the NRC to take into consideration domestic capacity before allowing importation of low-level radioactive waste and would have provided additional oversight authority by the NRC.
There is no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate yet available for this bill.