February 2, 2012
Statement by Chairman Bingaman
“The Committee meets this morning to hear about the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear waste. We’re very honored that Congressman Lee Hamilton and General Brent Scowcroft, the co-chairs, are here, as well as our friend and former chairman, Senator Domenici.
“The two chairmen—and indeed, the entire 15-member Commission—are to be commended for their work. They were asked to look into a problem that has resisted solution, that remains highly controversial, and that everyone agrees must be solved. They did their job openly and thoroughly, they stayed focused on the tasks that were assigned to them, and they produced a solid and eminently sensible report. They have presented us with eight clear, concise and straightforward recommendations.
“Now comes the difficult part. Implementing the Commission’s recommendations obviously will require legislation. It will be up to Congress to absorb these Commission recommendations, to translate them into legislation and to forge the political consensus needed to enact a bill into law.
“The Commission admits that none of the major elements of its strategy are new. We have known for decades that we need a permanent waste repository; we need a community – at least one – to host it; a transportation system to get the waste there; and a dedicated source of funds to pay for it.
“After years of work, we thought Congress had found a path forward in 1982, when Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which set up a fair, objective, and science-based process to pick repository sites.
“President Reagan signed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act into law and praised the bipartisan cooperation, resolve and good sense that made it possible. Those traits deserted us in 1987. Bowing to public opposition and budget constraints, Congress short-circuited the siting process and focused all of our efforts on Yucca Mountain. That has now proved to have been a mistake. The Blue Ribbon Commission has provided us with a roadmap for putting the program back on track, but it will obviously once again take bipartisan cooperation, resolve and good sense on our part to act upon its recommendations.”
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