|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 Willie deCamp of Short Hills, NJ:
I have been fascinated for some time by the fact that Yucca Mountain is being scientifically investigated as a 10,000 year repository for nuclear waste even though the half-lives of the substances involved are far greater than 10,000 years. (I have heard that the half-life of plutonium, for example, is 24,000 years.) Does our generation have any obligations to those who may live more than 10,000 years from now?
Senator Murkowski responds:
Willie, you are really a forward thinker --- 24,000 years!
Yes, our generation has a responsibility to future generations. That is why we need centralized storage. Why store these materials at 80 locations in 41 states if they can be stored at one safe and remote facility?
Our government chose the 10,000 year mark largely because that was the standard established by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency. After 10,000 years, the materials of the most significant concern will have decayed. But, even though that is the time standard used to determine licensing, DOE will analyze risks to later generations In fact, DOE is already analyzing the impact beyond 10,000 years. It is difficult to predict the state of society in 10,000 years. However, it is safe to assume, no matter what happens, these materials will be safer underground in Nevada than they would be scattered across the nation.
Thanks to everyone, including my friend Senator Bryan, for this opportunity. Tune in on April 8 at 2:30 p.m. EST when the Senate is scheduled to vote for cloture and deal with his filibuster threat!
Senator Bryan responds:
The National Academy of Science (NAS) has agreed that even the 10,000 year time frame is arbitrary. A NAS report noted that, "In the case of Yucca Mountain, at least, some potentially important exposures might not occur until after several hundred thousand years. For these reasons, we believe that there is no scientific basis for limiting the time period of the individual risk standard to 10,000 Years or any other value."
But far from the already inadequate 10,000 year limit, the Murkowski bill requires meeting safety standards for only 1,000 years making a mockery of decades of scientific opinion related to public health and safety.
Unfortunately, the nuclear power industry is concerned only with today's bottom line not future populations living in proximity to the repository.