Murkowski said that shifting committee responsibilities that sent current Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman and bill co-sponsor Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to lead the Finance Committee and pushed Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., atop the committee would likely quash movement.
"I wish that I could tell you that our nuclear waste bill was going to gain the traction that it needs," Murkowski, the Energy Committee's top Republican, said Tuesday at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' annual winter meeting in Washington. "I think [Landrieu] clearly has a commitment to it, but it's probably up against the clock of this 113th Congress. I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm not seeing as good of an opportunity for that."
Wyden has said he wants to hold a hearing on the bill, but those plans haven't materialized. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., another bill co-sponsor, told reporters at the event that the wait for a Congressional Budget Office score has handcuffed the process.
The bill, which also includes Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as a co-sponsor, calls for moving some nuclear waste currently stored at commercial sites across the country to temporary locations while the federal government searches for a permanent repository. The bill calls for government entities to apply to host the waste.
The measure is silent on what to do about the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, which the Obama administration pulled the plug on in 2009. A federal court ruled in August that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must complete its review of the site to comply with a 1982 federal law, though the commission says it lacks the funds to finish the study.
The bill's approach to a permanent storage site has caused some tension, Alexander said. He said some lawmakers worry that the temporary storage sites will become de facto permanent ones.
"There's some concern that we might get the temporary sites and not the repository," he said.