Rebecca Leier, with the North Dakota Community Alliance, speaks to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 8 at the state Capitol in Bismarck about adding amendments to Senate Bill 2037 and to protect the public interest involving storage of high-level radioactive waste in the state.

North Dakota residents concerned about nuclear waste storage say they’re “gratified” that state legislators included their suggestions in a bill approved this week.

House members voted 85-5 on Wednesday in favor of Senate Bill 2037, a bill that sets up a framework for permitting and regulating the storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste.

The North Dakota Community Alliance successfully pushed for language in the bill that makes it clear that the “placement, storage, treatment, exploration, testing or disposal of high-level radioactive waste” is prohibited in North Dakota.

If that provision is superseded by the federal government, the rest of the bill outlines a process for the state to respond and a permitting process.

Rep. Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, said the final bill was the result of hard work by concerned citizens and an interim legislative committee.

The Senate approved the bill with the latest amendments in an 85-5 vote on Tuesday.

Rebecca Leier, a member of the community alliance, said the group felt strongly about adding that prohibition in the bill.

“I think our legislation now has made it clear that we are pro-business, pro-industry, but we are not courting the high-level radioactive waste industry to our state,” Leier said.

The group of Pierce County residents formed the alliance after the county was caught off guard by a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to drill an exploratory borehole near Rugby. The project did not involve storing nuclear waste, but testing the stability of the rock. Residents objected and the county said no to the project in 2016.

During the development of the legislation, alliance members advocated for other provisions to better protect the public, such as increased bond requirements and permitting fees, increased landowner notification and an opportunity for a local county to submit a position paper on a proposal.

The legislation also establishes a high-level radioactive waste advisory council that includes state officials, legislators and representatives from city and county governments.  

The bill now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum for his signature.

The community alliance urges other residents to be informed about the nuclear waste industry and is inviting the public to attend a live webcast of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rugby High School on April 24-25.

Each day at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., members of the alliance will lead a discussion about the new legislation.

“It’s a statewide issue,” Leier said.

More information is available at the North Dakota Community Alliance Facebook page.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)