Vermont Ads Oppose Yucca Mountain

Plutonium Shipments to South Carolina to Begin

* Yucca Mountain opponents have released a television advertisement in Vermont asking viewers to call their senators and ask them to vote against the Yucca Mountain project. Although the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository would be in Nevada, organizers chose Vermont to begin their campaign because its citizens have strong environmental views and often work closely with the state's political leaders. Also, Vermont's Independent Senator Jim Jeffords is the head of the Senate environment committee.

However, support for the campaign may be difficult considering that Jeffords, Senator Patrick Leahy and Governor Howard Dean all support Yucca Mountain. Should Yucca Mountain open, it would provide a dumping ground for 30 years of spent nuclear fuel generated at Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. If Yucca Mountain does not open, the waste may be stored in dry casks along the Connecticut River, which, Jeffords says, "I believe poses serious and unacceptable environmental and safety risks."

Nevertheless, opponents of the plan recommend on-site storage of nuclear waste in order to avoid the potentially deadly transportation risk through more than 40 states. A spokesperson for Leahy said that although he supports the Yucca Mountain project, he expects President Bush to answer the serious questions about the transportation issues.

The waste would travel by freeway, railroad and barge to reach Yucca Mountain. Approximately 3,999 of those shipments would travel through New Mexico, according to a statement released this week by the National Environmental Trust and CCNS. Gregory Green, of the Trust, said "The President's plan would drive radioactive waste within one mile of more than 50 million Americans...that's like shipping a ticking time bomb to every major city in America and just hoping it doesn't go off."

Congress will vote on the Yucca Mountain proposal this summer.

Read the complete press release by the National Environmental Trust, CCNS and Peace Action New Mexico.

*Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has announced that he is prepared to begin shipments of plutonium from Rocky Flats to Savannah River, a Department of Energy (or DOE) facility in South Carolina, for processing, despite objections from South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges. Abraham has ordered Savannah River to accept 76 trailer loads, or 34 metric tons, of plutonium beginning May 15th so that Rocky Flats cleanup will be complete by 2006.

Hodges said that he will send state troopers, or even lie in the road himself, in order to intercept the shipments, unless Abraham can guarantee that the plutonium will not remain in South Carolina after processing. Hodges said, "Until there is a legally enforceable agreement that holds the federal government to its word, I will do everything at my disposal to ensure that plutonium does not enter South Carolina."

The plutonium will be taken to Savannah River to be converted into mixed oxide (or MOX) fuel, for powering commercial nuclear reactors. Hodges is afraid that if the MOX conversion plan runs into funding trouble or is scaled back, the plutonium will remain in South Carolina forever. Although Abraham has issued a formal commitment to take the plutonium back if the MOX plan faces trouble, Hodges is not convinced, saying, "The federal government is asking us to take them at their word. Given their track record, that's just not good enough."

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