A bipartisan bill to create a fresh start toward solving the old problem of mounting nuclear waste at reactors won accolades at a U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing July 30. \tThe bill would overhaul the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, a 1982 law under which the federal government has collected money from power utility ratepayers in California and across the nation to build and operate a permanent high-level nuclear waste facility. \tS. 1240 would create a new federal agency dedicated solely to developing and managing a permanent facility for the waste\u2014for which the federal government is liable. The agency would build both consolidated storage facilities and one or more permanent underground repositories. \tState, local, and tribal consensus would be needed before the agency could build any such facility in given location. \tThe agency would be directed by an executive and overseen by an independent board. In addition, future money collected to solve the waste problem would be held in a trust fund the agency could tap without seeking Congressional appropriation. \tIn these ways, the bipartisan bill\u2014sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN)\u2014largely reflects the recommendations of the Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission on America\u2019s Nuclear Future. \tEnergy Secretary Edward Moniz\u2014a member of the blue ribbon panel\u2014characterized the measure as \u201ca thoughtful approach\u201d and a \u201cpromising framework\u201d for permanent underground storage of 70,000 tons of high level waste now temporarily stored at reactor sites. He noted, however, that the Obama Administration has not taken an official position on the bill. Nuclear Energy Institute president Marvin Fertel called the bill \u201ca significant step forward\u201d in addressing the waste problem. He urged, however, that the new agency be structured like a corporation. Its board members should be appointed for eight-year terms so they\u2019re insulated from political pressure, he added. \tNational Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners member David Boyd said the bill would make \u201csignificant improvements\u201d over the current situation. He pointed out that the government has collected tens of billions of dollars from utility ratepayers to build a permanent waste repository but never has done so. \tThe site the federal government chose\u2014Yucca Mountain, Nevada\u2014became mired in political and technical controversies. Meanwhile, the disposition of the money is the subject of litigation (see story below). Boyd urged that the bill be amended to provide the board overseeing the new agency with increased independence. He also recommended that it consist in part of members of his association. \tUnion of Concerned Scientists nuclear safety project director David Lochbaum advised that the bill should be amended to require nuclear plant operators to move spent fuel rods out of onsite storage pools into dry cask storage. \tSouthwest Area National Congress of American Indians vice president Joe Garcia voiced support for the bill, but noted that tribes should be given control over transportation of waste through reservations and be provided with enhanced emergency response capabilities in the case of accidents.