June 19, 2002
12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Frank H. Murkowski, Ranking Member on the Senate Energy Committee spoke today on the floor of the Senate and called on his colleagues to approve Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the site for the nation’s permanent deep geological storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. “More than twenty years and $4 billion dollars of scientific study has been invested in determining whether this site is a suitable home for nuclear waste. I believe that sound science AND sound policy guide this decision. “The Senate Energy Committee, on June 6, 2002, by a vote of 13 to 10, favorably reported S.J.Res. 34 – the Yucca Mountain siting resolution. This Resolution approves President Bush’s Recommendation to Congress that the Nation’s permanent deep geological storage site for spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste be located at the Yucca Mountain Site in Nevada. “What this Resolution does not do is build the repository. It merely selects the site and approval of the Resolution would start the Department of Energy on the licensing process. This is a long-awaited step forward in the process to develop this nation’s long-term geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste. “In making his decision, President Bush relied on the recommendation of Secretary Abraham and on two decades of science that has found, in the words of one Department of Energy assessment, “no showstoppers. The vote last month in the House (306 -117) affirmed the exceptional science, engineering, and public policy work that has gone into this very important national project.Now it is the Senate’s turn to vote on the Resolution. “The Nuclear Waste Policy Act anticipated this would be a tough decision and laid out very strict ‘fast track’ procedure to ensure that the decision would be put to a vote and the will of the majority would be heard. This is one of those rare cases where Congress made the decision to not allow procedural games to obscure the substance of a very important decision. “We have to make this decision and we will make it soon. The Federal government has a contractual obligation to take the nation’s spent fuel – an obligation that came due in 1998. So far, no waste has been moved, despite the fact that utility rate payers have been paying into the Nuclear Waste Fund for decades. It now has more than $17 billion in it for this very purpose. “Thirty-nine states have spent fuel piling up : 1,860 metric tons in California, 1,542 metric tons in Connecticut, and a whopping 5,850 metric tons in Illinois. Policy decisions lie with elected officials – we base them on sound science and the facts of course – but ultimately, we have to make the tough calls. The Secretary has acted, the President has acted and the House of Representatives has acted. Now the Senate must act.” ###