In Yucca Mountain Approval, Senators Bow to Nuclear Industry;
Fight Will Continue
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Bradbery (202) 588-7741 or Lisa Gue (202) 454-5130
July 9, 2002
Today's decision by the U.S. Senate to give a green light to the
potentially disastrous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is
disappointing, but we are pleased that more senators than ever - 39
- voted against it.
Still, this outcome was not unexpected, given that the nuclear
industry spent millions of dollars to buy ads, contribute to
politicians' campaigns and hire lobbyists to twist arms. In fact,
senators and senatorial candidates took more than $5 million from
the nuclear power industry in political action committee
contributions from 1997 through February 2002. This vote was paid
for, and records likely will show more contributions poured into
campaign coffers in recent weeks. With today's vote, lawmakers have
not only succumbed to industry influence but have again failed to
check the Bush administration's inappropriate coziness with the
Ahead of us are regulatory, legislative and legal battles. We hope
common sense will prevail, because there are plenty of issues to be
- It is unclear whether enough money will be appropriated for
Yucca Mountain to come to fruition. Already the government has spent
$7 billion on this white elephant; today's total cost estimate is
$58 billion and tomorrow's will be more.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has not released the routes it
would use to ship the nuclear waste to Nevada. This has enabled the
administration to avoid the wrath of concerned lawmakers who may not
yet know that these mobile Chernobyls could be coming through their
districts. When routes are finally laid out, expect a huge amount of
opposition from affected communities and their representatives.
The DOE has estimated that nearly 300 crashes could occur while
this dangerous waste is being shipped to Nevada. Yet it is unlikely
that emergency workers would be prepared to adequately handle such
potential disasters. Further, the transportation casks have not been
fully tested to ensure they could withstand realistically severe
crashes. Also, the waste will make a tempting terrorist target as it
rolls across the country; the Yucca Mountain scheme calls for
scattering dirty bombs all over the United States.
Even the government's own scientists confess they cannot
demonstrate that the proposed repository will not leak and
contaminate the environment and drinking water supplies.
Yucca Mountain will not solve our waste problems because the
irradiated fuel must cool onsite for years before being moved.
Whether or not Yucca Mountain is built, nuclear waste will always be
scattered at nuclear reactors throughout the country as long as
reactors continue to operate. Further, the total volume of this
country's high-level nuclear waste is expected to exceed capacity at
Yucca Mountain before the repository can open.
We applaud the efforts and leadership of Sens. Tom Daschle, Harry
Reid and others. We hope they will continue to lead the fight
against what is, and always will be, a terrible idea.
Back to Yucca Mountain