President Clinton has indicated he will again veto the nuclear waste bill sent to him by Congress. This would ensure that the issue will not be addressed before the presidential elections in November.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed the measures. But the margins were short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto (See NEI, March p3).

Congressional leaders have urged the president to sign the bill. House speaker Dennis Hasert said that vetoing the legislation would be “disasterous” for US energy security policies.

Republican Joe Barton, chairman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, said the measure was so “watered down” in an effort to compromise with the Clinton administration that it would not have solved any of the problems facing the US nuclear waste management programme anyway.

The bill would allow the Department of Energy to build an above ground interim storage facility for spent fuel adjacent to the proposed permanent repository at Yucca Mountain as early as 2007.

This would follow from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issuing a construction permit for the permanent repository.

The major stumbling block is the demand by congress that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to set radiation protection standards is delayed until June 2001, after the next presidential elections.

“The legislation limits the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to exercise its existing authority to fully protect public health and the environment,” said John Podesta, White House chief of staff.

“In an area as important as this, I think this authority cannot be compromised. Any nuclear waste legislation that undermines the EPA’s current role in setting these standards is unacceptable to this administration.”