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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Amended SB 2037 passes Wednesday

By Staff | Apr 19, 2019

A bill relating to the disposal and storage of high-level nuclear waste passed in the North Dakota House of Representatives Wednesday.

A summary title of Senate Bill 2037, introduced at the beginning of the 66th North Dakota Legislative Assembly, says the bill covers disposal, storage and retrieval of high-level nuclear waste, and amends sections of the North Dakota Century Code defining illegal transportation or disposal of radioactive waste and other hazardous waste. The summary also says the bill’s purpose is “to repeal chapter 2320.2 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to the disposal of nuclear waste material; to provide a penalty; and to provide a continuing appropriation.”

The issue caught the attention of Pierce County in 2016, when federal and private researchers proposed drilling a borehole deep beneath the surface to test for suitable conditions for storing high-level nuclear waste. County commissioners were able to stop the exploration by denying permits to the researchers.

The North Dakota Community Alliance was founded in Pierce County soon after the attempt at exploration, and the group worked with District 14 legislators to strengthen state codes and laws.

In a press release, the NDCA said, “The North Dakota Community Alliance(NDCA) is gratified that both the Senate and House of Representatives have reviewed testimony and supporting information, and unanimously agreed to add important ‘General Prohibition’ language to Bill 2037: ‘The placement, storage, treatment, exploration, testing, or disposal of high-level radioactive waste within the exterior boundaries of North Dakota is prohibited. If this provision is superseded by federal law, the remaining provisions of this chapter continue to apply. This section does not limit the authority of the legislative assembly or the commission to issue a notice of disapproval under this chapter.(38-32-01).’ “

“I think it’s a clear indication from our legislation that North Dakota is a business-oriented state,” NDCA member Rebecca Leier told the Tribune. “We welcome industry, but we’re not courting the high-level nuclear waste industry.”

The release continued, “The North Dakota Community Alliance has been working during the 66th session to see SB 2037 strengthened with amendments that include increased bond requirements & permitting fees, increased landowner notification, and increased time for a comment period, and would also include the submission of a position paper from county governments and the creation of a High-level Radioactive Waste Advisory Council comprised of a cross section of citizens, legislators and experts from across the state. The NDCA feels that the inclusion of these amendments and the general prohibition have created key provisions to protect the voices, as well as, health, safety and economic interests of North Dakota citizens.”

The release said the NDCA plans to host live webcasts of the US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which will be held April 24-25. “This live meeting will showcase the United States Department of Energy and nine additional countries as they present the most current information on recent advances in repository science and operations from international underground research laboratory (URL) collaborations. The live sessions will run from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. each day at Rugby High School. Discussion sessions with the NDCA members, including (a distribution of) copies of SB 2037 will be held at 9 am and 2 p.m.”

Leier said the two discussion sessions will be held both days of the live webcast.

She added, “(North Dakota Representative Jon Nelson) is bringing us the marked-up bill with all the changes from the beginning of the session in January until the end. Everything that we amended and changed will be clearly highlighted in the bill. And he’s bringing copies for our meeting. Then, we’ll have members of the North Dakota Community Alliance explain to whoever’s interested, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., what exactly changed in the bill, why we felt that was important.”

“We’re very gratified with the amount of work that Representative Jon Nelson put into this, and the support we got locally from Sue Steinke, our mayor. It was good to know that our elected officials were as concerned as we were, and working hard with us. That was a good thing.”

Leier said the group also thanked “every person [who]emailed (state legislators) at two critical moments. We sent out calls to action at two critical moments, and they responded.”

Leier noted the NDCA also planned to stay with SB 2037 as it moves toward Governor Burgum’s desk. “There’s still a rules process that happens, so the North Dakota Community Alliance will stick with this as we get through the rules process,” she explained.

The NDCA press release urged residents to stay up to date on SB 2037 and related issues: “Information about bill 2037 may be found on the ND Community Alliance Facebook page, website, and the North Dakota Legislature’s website.”

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