Commission would explore alternatives with Yucca Mountain no longer an option
March 12, 2009
Washington, D.C. –Nevada Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign today introduced a bill to create a national commission on high level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel to study alternatives for managing nuclear waste in the United States. The commission created by this bill would have two years to examine responsible alternatives for dealing with the nuclear waste in the long term.
Below is the statement from Sen. Reid as prepared for delivery on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
“Mr. President, I am pleased to say that we are closing the book on our nation’s failed nuclear waste policy. After decades of fighting the Yucca Mountain project, I can say with confidence that Nevada will not serve as the nation’s nuclear waste dump.
Nevadans and all Americans will be safer and more secure thanks to President Obama’s commitment to finding scientifically sound and responsible solutions to dealing with nuclear waste.
And I am proud to say that I have been working on a new volume in this terribly difficult debate. Bad policy like the Yucca Mountain project is easy to oppose. But it is not always easy to craft better policy.
That is what I am doing with Senator Ensign today – working to replace our failed approach to dealing with nuclear waste with a much better policy. We are unveiling our plan to form a congressional commission to evaluate and make recommendations on alternative approaches to managing nuclear waste.
This is a step that is way past due.
I began opposing the idea of dumping nuclear waste in Nevada when it was first proposed in the early 1980s. I was still a member of the House then, and I continued this fight in the Senate with most Nevadans firmly behind my efforts to kill the project. I have fought against the Yucca Mountain project vigorously, but from the very beginning I was also calling for long-range planning on nuclear waste because it was the right thing to do.
I continued calling for researching alternatives to Yucca in 1995 when I introduced legislation with my close friend and colleague, Senator Dick Bryan, to establish a commission on nuclear waste. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t listen, even though evidence was piling up showing that Yucca Mountain could become a death trap for Nevadans.
The government’s decades-long focus on Yucca Mountain has left us barren with very few good proposals for dealing with nuclear waste. Now that President Obama and Secretary Chu have taken Yucca Mountain off the table, we need to begin looking closely at new ideas. We should even dust off some older ones that have been ignored for far too long.
The legislation we are introducing today forms a temporary commission to review and make recommendations on a wide variety of alternatives to Yucca.
The commission will look at everything from at-reactor dry cask storage to reprocessing. The commission will consider having the federal government take title to nuclear waste, but will also consider chartering a federal corporation to manage nuclear waste.
And very importantly, the commission will consider the security of temporary storage facilities for nuclear waste so we can give assurances to communities near nuclear power plants that their safety will not be compromised.
The cosponsors of this legislation do not all share the same views about nuclear power and we do not share the same views about nuclear waste. For example, I have long said that nuclear waste needs to remain on site where it’s produced until the government has a safe and scientifically sound solution. Others would like to reprocess and reuse nuclear waste in nuclear reactors. And many still feel that some form of permanent disposal is a good solution.
But forming a commission is something the bill’s sponsors and others agree upon because it will create a process that will help our nation take a critical step away from the failed Yucca Mountain policy.
I look forward to continuing working with my colleagues to make sure we take responsible actions necessary to begin addressing nuclear waste.”