Senators Domenici and Bingaman Vote to Open Yucca Mountain

Mayors Chavez and Delgado Support Resolution for Senate to Postpone Yucca Mountain Vote

* The Senate Energy Committee, chaired by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, voted recently 13-10 in favor of the Department of Energy (or DOE) moving forward to open the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada. Both New Mexico Senators voted yes. The full Senate is expected to vote on the veto presented by the state of Nevada sometime in July.

The House of Representatives voted in May to uphold President Bush's recommendation of Yucca Mountain as the central repository for 77,000 tons of high-level commercial nuclear waste, despite a veto by the state of Nevada. New Mexico Representative Tom Udall voted against Bush's recommendation.

New Mexicans concerned about Bingaman's vote had a conference call with the Senator's Washington D.C. Chief of Staff, Bernie Toon, this week to seek an explanation for the Senator's vote. In 2000, Bingaman voted against moving ahead with nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain. Representatives from CCNS, Southwest Research and Information Center, and Citizen Action spoke with Toon to learn what benefits New Mexico will gain if Yucca Mountain opens. Toon explained that Bingaman voted yes to open Yucca Mountain because of the national responsibility he has under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and as Chair of the Energy Committee, and that the "Senate should be able to work its will on Yucca Mountain," by moving the resolution to the Senate floor.

When asked if Bingaman would change his vote on the floor, Toon responded, "Perhaps. There is a slim chance." The activists expressed many technical and public health concerns about Yucca Mountain. Toon suggested that the Senator may have a conference call with New Mexico activists before the Senate vote.

After the call, Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center, commented on Bingaman's national responsibility argument. He said, "What about the people of New Mexico and millions of other people along waste transportation routes who get no benefits, only risks? We get the dangers of transportation accidents, radiation exposure and declining property values. There's no benefit to New Mexico or most other people in the nation."

*New Mexico Mayors, Martin Chavez of Albuquerque and Larry Delgado of Santa Fe, voted yes this week on a Conference of Mayors resolution urging the U.S. Senate to postpone approval of Yucca Mountain until the DOE addresses the transportation concerns. Shipments to Yucca Mountain through New Mexico would probably travel along I-40 and I-10, and by train through Clovis, Vaughn and Gallup.

The resolution cites many concerns about the site, transportation issues, and a possible terrorist attack on shipments that could cost $17 billion in clean-up costs. It also references an International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report that was commissioned by DOE that concludes that DOE "lacks sufficient information to predict the suitability and hyrogeologic performance of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository." The resolution does not mention the June 14th x4.4 earthquake centered 29 miles east-southeast of Beatty, Nevada.

CCNS and other activist organizations are pleased with the leadership shown by Mayors Chavez and Delgado.

Back to News Index