|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 Don Hancock of Albuquerque, NM:
Isn't it true that there are currently more than 70 nuclear waste sites -- at the nuclear power plants -- and that all of those sites will continue to be waste sites for many years, even if spent fuel were moved to Nevada? The reactors will remain highly radioactive for decades and the plants will continue to generate new wastes as long as they operate.
If wastes cannot remain safely at the nuclear power plants (the premise of S. 104), shouldn't the plants be shut down? If it is safe to leave the waste at those sites for decades while the plants operate, what's the reason to rush legislation through Congress to ship wastes to Nevada?
Senator Bryan responds:
Nuclear power is a dying industry. No new reactors have been ordered for over a decade -- not because of lack of storage, but because nuclear power is simply not competitive in the marketplace. In an ill-founded and irresponsible attempt to jump-start a dying industry, nuclear utilities have advanced a proposal that places the populations of 43 states at risk -- all for the benefit of the bottom line of the commercial nuclear power industry. They believe building a temporary storage dump in Nevada for their wastes will be the savior of their industry.
Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Nevada cannot be considered for a temporary storage dump because it is being studied for the permanent repository at Yucca Mountain. The interim storage legislation we are about to consider in the Senate removes this protection and designates Nevada for the temporary storage dump.
Senator Murkowski responds:
Hello to Don from Albuquerque.
The longer waste languishes at a facility not built for long term storage, the less safe it becomes. That is why high-level electricity and defense wastes are a national responsibility and must become a national priority. A bipartisan consensus was reached 15 years ago that centralized storage is the best and safest solution. Even if reprocessing were an option, we would still need a central repository.
In fact, Don, you and I and other electricity ratepayers will have to pay $7.7 billion more for on-site storage if we fail to open an interim site. Yucca Mountain wont be ready to accept waste before 2015.
The federal government has a court-enforced obligation to take the materials by 1998. Ratepayers have already given $12 billion to pay for safer storage. Now, taxpayers are facing a potential liability of well over $50 billion because government has not delivered. Again, even if the nuclear industry vanished tomorrow, spent fuel and defense wastes would remain for us to deal with.
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