|The Nuclear Waste Debate|
Senators Murkowski and Bryan
March 28, 1997
in this forum:
Why Nevada? Aren't communities who produce nuclear waste responsible? Does the nation need an interim site? Why can't the waste stay at the nuclear plant? Are you concerned about possible protests? How safe is it to transport waste across the country? How long should they plan on storing waste safely? SENATOR BRYAN: How would this bill impact the Nevada population? Additional Viewer Comments...
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A question from Lewis Halpern of Reno, NV:
It seems unfair that Nevada, which has no working nuclear plants should have to go through the risk and danger of having to store the nation's nuclear waste.
How can the Federal gov't justify this?
Senator Murkowski responds:
Thank you to Lewis, all the other questioners and folks at the NewsHour for your efforts.
Our bipartisan goal of stopping the pile up of high-level radioactive materials from electricity generation and defense at 80 locations in 41 states will likely pass the Senate in April. A similar measure to S. 104 passed last year with 63 votes. In mid-March, after a few amendments, S. 104 received strong, bipartisan backing in my committee with a 15-5 vote.
Is this an effort to be "unfair" to Nevada? No. A federal court has ruled the government has an obligation to take the materials by 1998. Americans have paid $12 billion to the federal government for safe, centralized storage. There really are no other safe and practical options.
Fifteen years ago, our government decided centralized storage is safer and more cost effective than piling up radioactive materials near populated areas. After studying potential sites across the nation, the Department of Energy identified three candidates, and Congress settled on Yucca Mountain in 1987. Yucca Mountain's unique geology and infrastructure is well suited to help us win the war on waste. Unfortunately, it will not be ready until 2015. Thus we need interim storgare at the ajoining Nevada Test Site. That site helped this nation win the Cold War. It was used for decades to explode bombs, and is located in the remote and arid desert. As a state legislator, Senator Bryan voted in favor of a resolution (AJR 15) asking the federal government to send high-level materials to the Nevada Test Site.
In fact, Lewis, Nevadans do use nuclear power, as do people in all of the lower 48 states. The citizens of my state do not use nuclear power. But, as taxpayers, they will have to pay their share of the huge liability Secretary Pena has admitted will result from the federal government's failure to provide safe centralized storage by the 1998 court-enforced deadline.
Senator Bryan responds:
Since 1982, Nevada has been the prime target of the nuclear power industry for the disposal of its high level commercial nuclear waste. In spite of the fact that Nevada has no nuclear reactors, commercial or otherwise, and never benefited from nuclear power, Nevada has been identified by the nuclear power special interest lobby as its chosen site for the disposal of one of the most poisonous, dangerous substances known to man.
Since 1987, as the result of a backroom deal reached during the deliberations of a conference committee, Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Nevada, has been the sole site being studied by the federal government for a permanent high level nuclear waste repository.
The repository program has been a dismal failure. Despite the expenditure of nearly $5 billion, a repository is no closer to being built today than it was in 1982, when the original Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed by Congress. The industry is now demanding that the federal government immediately build a so-called "interim storage" facility at the Nevada Test Site.