|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 Phillip Scarro of Chicago, IL:
Who is responsible?
It seems to be that this bill establishes an out for places that decided to go with nuclear power. They do not have to deal with the major problem with this source of energy.
If an area, like L.A., chooses not to have mass-transit and to utilize cars so much, then they have to deal with smog. The communities that are shipping the nuclear waste to Nevada won't have to deal with the repercussions of what they chose.
I'll admit, Illinois is one of the states that would benefit by shipping our waste to Nevada. But I have to ask the two senators, shouldn't those communities that created the waste deal with the waste?
Senator Bryan responds:
As Nevadans, we are often asked where nuclear waste should go if not Nevada. The answer is nowhere. Nuclear waste is currently stored on-site, at the 109 nuclear power reactors in the United States -- 80 percent of them east of the Mississippi River. These sites, of necessity, will remain storage facilities for nuclear materials at least as long as the reactor continues to operate - several decades, if not longer. Technology exists in the form of dry cask storage which is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and available for utilities to use if they need additional storage. Numerous utilities have taken advantage of this technology, and have moved to dry cask storage. Outside of the local political problems many reactors face when they try to increase storage, there are simply no reasons any utility needing additional storage cannot do the same.
Senator Murkowski responds:
Whether or not you or I like it, electricity customers in 48 states rely on nuclear power, and that source lights one in five light bulbs/refrigerators/computers in this nation. Even if the industry were closed down tomorrow, spent fuel from power generation and waste from defense operations would remain. The safe storage of those high-level radioactive materials is a national responsibility. Unfortunately, we are currently unprepared to meet that responsibility. I am working with members of both parties, and we have invited the White House and Secretary Pena to take part in solving this problem.
Phillip, your question seems to suggest you would consider storing high-level radioactive materials in as many places as possible for the sake of equity. The whole point of centralized storage is safety, environmental protection and cost effectiveness. Why keep waste near homes and schools in 41 states if it can be more safely and cheaply contained at one remote and monitored location?
Reactor ponds were not built for long term storage. In fact, as you may have read in the New York Times, radioactive tritium gas is currently leaking into Suffolk County, Long Island's ground water from a spent fuel storage pond at the Brookhaven lab. By 1998, 23 pools in 14 states will be full of spent fuel. By 2010, 65 in 29 states will be full. Many states are worried the federal government will never live up to its obligation, and thus they may block further storage. When nuclear reactors stop operating it becomes even more vital from the safety and cost standpoints for spent nuclear fuel to be moved to central storage. By the way, Senators Paul Simon and Carol Mosely-Braun both voted for the bill last year.