Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), the federal government, through the Department of Energy (DOE), is responsible for permanently disposing of the nation’s nuclear waste in a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. H.R. 3053 would not change that fundamental requirement, but would temporarily limit DOE’s authority to collect certain fees charged to utilities with nuclear plants to cover the costs of disposing of the waste they generate and would authorize DOE to enter into agreements to provide benefits to state, local, and tribal governments that might host or be affected by facilities related to the waste management program.
In general, CBO expects that enacting H.R. 3053 would not significantly change the overall magnitude of the long-term costs the government will incur under the NWPA (tens of billions of dollars over multiple decades). However, relative to CBO’s 10-year baseline projections, we estimate that enacting the bill would increase direct spending over the next 10 years. In particular, the bill would reduce projected receipts from certain fees (which are treated as reductions in direct spending) that utilities might otherwise pay by about $1.5 billion and would increase direct spending for payments to state, local, and tribal governments by $260 million over the 2018-2027 period.
However, the House Committee on the Budget has directed CBO to estimate the budgetary effects of H.R. 3053 on the assumption that, under current law, the utilities will pay none of the affected fees over the 2018-2027 period. On that basis, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3053 would not reduce projected receipts, but would increase direct spending by $260 million over the 2018-2027 period.
In addition, assuming appropriation of the authorized and estimated amounts, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would have discretionary costs of $300 million over the next 10 years.
Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting H.R. 3053 would affect direct spending. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.
CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3053 would increase net direct spending after 2027. However, CBO cannot determine whether such net increases would exceed $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028 because the bulk of such increases would depend on whether a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain is licensed, built, and put into operation. Whether such events occur depends on factors that lie beyond the scope of this legislation—namely, what the outcome is for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) review of DOE’s application for a license to construct a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain and whether the Congress provides the funding necessary for DOE to establish such a facility and carry out other activities related to the disposal of nuclear waste.
H.R. 3053 would impose intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA). The bill would preempt state and local regulatory authority over hazardous waste that would be transported to and stored in a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Although the preemption would limit the application of state and local laws and regulations, CBO estimates that the preemption would impose no duty on state or local governments that would result in additional spending or a loss of revenues.
H.R. 3053 also would impose a private-sector mandate as defined in UMRA on owners of mining claims by prohibiting mining on federal land withdrawn from public land laws for the construction of a repository. Based on information about the number of mining claims in the area and the value of mining claims on federal land, CBO estimates that the cost of the mandate would fall below the annual threshold established in UMRA for private-sector mandates ($156 million in 2017, adjusted annually for inflation).