Cancer Researcher, Anderson Will Warn Senators on
by Judy Fahys
Salt Lake Tribune -- Wednesday, May 22, 2002
A respected physician and cancer researcher will tell a U.S. Senate
committee today that an accident while transporting tons of nuclear
waste across Utah could once again expose residents to radiation, with
consequences that might include more lung cancer, leukemia and bone
Huntsman Cancer Institute Director Stephen M. Prescott said Tuesday
his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
will discuss his experience with cancer patients whose deaths may have
been caused by exposure to radiation.
Utahns in past decades have been exposed to radiation from uranium
mining and weapons testing, Prescott will testify, and a new threat
could come from the government's plan to store the nation's high-level
nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev. Much of it would be transported
"I guarantee you, if they [the senators] saw patients in the clinic,
they would not dismiss the [accidental exposure] risk," Prescott said in
an interview, recalling his work with a dying uranium miner. "It gets to
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson also is scheduled to testify
today against the Yucca facility. The Energy Committee will vote in two
weeks on whether to approve the dump, with a vote in the full Senate
after that. The U.S. House already has given its approval.
Nevada's U.S. senators, both Republicans, invited the Utahns to help
make the case that shipping and burying the deadly waste at Yucca
Mountain puts too many people at risk. The committee has given
opponents today to air their opposition.
Anderson also will talk about safety, underscoring horrific
scenarios that could unfold in the dozens of metropolitan areas that can
expect high-level waste shipments almost daily if power plants begin
sending their spent fuel to Yucca Mountain. In advance copies of his
testimony, the mayor describes federal nuclear-waste policy as
shortsighted, inadequate, irresponsible and undemocratic.
"We have a major stake in the debate," says Anderson, who urges
senators to revamp the national policy.
The mayor tops his prepared testimony with a picture that the> defunct Atomic Energy Commission used on pamphlets reassuring Utahns and
Nevadans that open-air nuclear weapons testing would cause them no
It depicts a cowboy on his horse in the desert watching a mushroom
cloud explode on the horizon. Recent government reports have attributed
more than 15,000 cancer deaths in the United States since 1951 to
tests worldwide, as well as 20,000 more cancer cases that were not
"The people of Utah were lied to repeatedly when told that
government plans were safe -- we will not be lied to again," Anderson
says in his testimony. "We will not allow Congress and the Department
of Energy to treat Utah and Nevada as remote, disposable places, where
the self-inflicted problems of the reckless nuclear-power industry -- and of
a federal government that has been astoundingly irresponsible in its
nuclear policy -- can be conveniently dumped."
Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett have voted in favor of
building the repository, but recently pledged to take a fresh look at
the issue. Republican Reps. Jim Hansen and Chris Cannon voted for
Yucca Mountain, while Anderson's fellow Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson,
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who has been the Yucca
Mountain plan's most vocal opponent, welcomed the insights Anderson
Prescott will proffer.
"The testimony from these two witnesses will send a clear message
that Utahns do not want tons and tons of deadly nuclear waste traveling
through their neighborhoods, and by their schools, parks and homes,"
said Reid, who graduated from Utah universities.
President Bush has approved the Yucca Mountain facility, but the
state of Nevada vetoed the idea last month. Now Congress has until July
26 to override the state's decision.
Waste bound for Yucca Mountain could wind up parked for several
years at a temporary storage facility proposed for the Skull Valley
Goshute Reservation, about 45 miles from Salt Lake City. Utah
congressmen are opposed to the Skull Valley facility.
Back to Yucca Mountain