SENATE VOTE DOES NOT MEAN END TO YUCCA MOUNTAIN FIGHT;
MORE CONGRESSIONAL ACTION, LEGAL SUITS, PROTESTS AND BLOCKADES WILL
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington, DC 20036
202.328.0002; f: 202.462.2183; www.nirs.org; email@example.com
Contact: Kevin Kamps, 202.328.0002 or Michael Mariotte, 202.328.0002
July 9, 2002
Today's outrageous 60-39 U.S. Senate vote to override Nevada's veto of
the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste dump does not mean
Yucca Mountain ever will open. Instead, it simply sets the stage for
years of courtroom activity, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
licensing proceedings, continued Congressional action, and an increased
likelihood of large protests and blockades of highways and railways.
"Today's Senate vote accomplished only one thing," said Michael
Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service
(NIRS). "It proved that 60 members of the U.S. Senate caved in to the
nuclear power industry and put those interests above the interests of
the American people. By approving this project, the Senate has assured
that this multi-billion dollar waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money
will continue for now. But that doesn't mean Yucca is a done deal."
"The increased opposition to Yucca Mountain from previous votes should
be a clear warning to the NRC and future Congresses that there is a
great deal of doubt about Yucca Mountain, and they must be prepared to
stop this project at anytime," said Kevin Kamps of NIRS' Radioactive
"The State of Nevada and environmental groups will be continuing to
mount lawsuits against the project, on numerous grounds, including the
failure of the project to meet the environmental regulations established
to protect the public. Instead, the Department of Energy, NRC and
Environmental Protection Agency all have weakened public protection
standards in recent years to accommodate the ill-chosen site, rather
than rejecting the site as should have been done," said Kamps.
NIRS expressed no confidence in the NRC to conduct a fair licensing
process. "The NRC may be an 'independent' agency, but it is staffed
entirely by nuclear advocates who want to see a new future for this
obsolete technology," explained Mariotte. "Since its establishment in
1975, the NRC has rejected only two license applications of the
thousands of it has received, and one of those, at the Byron nuclear
complex in Illinois, was overturned on appeal. Only a 1996 decision by
an Atomic Safety Licensing Board, which rejected on environmental racism
grounds a uranium enrichment plant proposed by a company called
Louisiana Energy Services (LES), ever stood. And the NRC then took steps
to limit the public's right in such licensing hearings, to be sure that
never happens again. Indeed, LES is on the verge of announcing a new
effort to build such a plant."
NIRS pointed out that Yucca Mountain does little to solve the nation's
growing radioactive waste problem. "Yucca Mountain is legally limited in
how much high-level atomic waste it can accept," said Kamps. "Even if it
opened, it would only be able to accept about half the waste expected to
be generated by the nation's nuclear reactors. The rest will remain
where it is now, on-site at every nuclear reactor in the country, and
the Energy Department will be out there looking for another
politically-weak state to dump the waste on."
"Meanwhile, the DOE is encouraging the construction of still more
nuclear reactors that will have no place to store their lethal waste,"
said Mariotte. "Just two weeks ago, Secretary Abraham announced that he
will give $17 million of taxpayer money to three wealthy nuclear
utilities to begin the process of licensing new reactors. This is not
only an unacceptable use of tax money, it gives the lie to any belief
that DOE even cares about the nuclear waste problem. Where does Abraham
propose this waste will go-under the DOE's Forrestal Building in
downtown Washington, DC?"
"Yucca Mountain already is projected to cost some $58 Billion, and the
costs seem to rise daily," said Mariotte. "And if Abraham and the
nuclear utilities get their way, we're going to have to start this
process all over again, with a new site, and tens of billions more
dollars spent to support this unnecessary and dangerous source of
electricity. It simply boggles the mind that any public official could
propose such a plan. It is past time to aggressively promote sustainable
energy technologies-that's where we should be spending our money, not on
more nuclear power."
Mariotte said NIRS would now step up its preparations for large protests
and blockades of highways and railways if the transport of high-level
waste actually begins in the U.S. NIRS and grassroots environmental
organizations have been training people in non-violent resistance to
such shipments since 1997, and has sent activists to Germany to learn
from the massive protests there in the past few years.
"Germany has made six shipments of nuclear waste casks since 1995," said
Kamps, who was in Germany earlier this year to view a shipment. "It now
requires some 30,000 police and $100 million to move a cask just 250
miles, disrupts the transportation network of much of the country, and
requires a police state in large parts of northern Germany. The U.S. is
talking about thousands of shipments, averaging 2,000 miles. There will
be thousands of protestors along these routes," he predicted.
Mariotte also warned that some members of Congress may again attempt to
open an "interim" storage site at Yucca Mountain next session, and begin
the transportation of radioactive waste as soon as possible. "We expect
Congress would reject such an attempt," he said, "but we will be ready
if it does not."
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