[ RadSafe ] News: Yucca Mountain Legislation to be Introduced

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 8 12:48:54 CDT 2006

>From another list server
-----Original Message-----
From: fyi at aip.org [mailto:fyi at aip.org] 
Sent: Friday, September 08, 2006 12:32 PM
Subject: FYI #110: Yucca Mountain Legislation to be

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science
Policy News Number 110: September 8, 2006

Domenici Seeks “Constructive Dialogue” on Yucca
Mountain Repository

“Let me be clear.  We need Yucca Mountain.  I want to
fix this program and make it work.”   So declared
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) at last month’s Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on
legislation  to expedite the handling of spent nuclear
fuel at the Yucca Mountain repository.   Domenici
followed up on his intention, announcing yesterday
that he will introduce his own bill this month to fix
what he calls “several problems” with the repository.

Senator Domenici is a strong supporter of nuclear
energy.  As the chairman of the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee and the chairman of the
Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Subcommittee, he commands central positions in the
Senate for both authorizing and funding legislation as
it relates to nuclear energy.  He now hopes to win
passage of legislation that both he and the Bush
Administration contend is needed to clear the way for
the eventual opening of Yucca Mountain.  In his
opening remarks, Domenici explained his support for
nuclear energy as follows: “The Energy Information
Administration estimates that in 2030 our nation will
need an additional 347 gigawatts of electricity
brought on line to just to keep up with demand.  What
are we going to build?  Natural gas is expensive and
stocks are hard to come by, though we are looking. 
The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal, but until proven
coal technologies come on-line that demonstrate the
successful sequestration of carbon emissions, nuclear
is the clean air solution.  We must - and we shall -
build new nuclear power plants.”

The senator introduced a “first draft”of this
legislation in early April.  S. 2589 was proposed by
the Bush Administration and is a 3,600 word bill that
would go a long way toward opening Yucca Mountain in
March 2017, an objective DOE recently announced. 
Edward Sproat, Director of DOE’s Office of Civilian
Radioactive Waste Management, testified at last
month’s hearing “that the probability of making that
schedule without this legislation is zero.”  The bill
would provide “critical authorities” regarding land
withdrawal and transfer, Waste Confidence, the Nuclear
Waste Fund, environmental and regulatory requirements,
the repository’s tonnage cap, and taking the Nuclear
Waste Fund off budget.  While there would still be
many hurdles to cross, S. 2589 would remove, by
legislative action, many of the problems that have
long beset the repository.

Hearing witnesses testified both for and against the
legislation. The first witness, Minority Leader Harry
Reid (D-NV) minced no words in describing his
opposition to S. 2589, stating, “Everyone knows that
the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is a
dying beast. And it should die -  it is a
scientifically unsound project that would needlessly
threaten the public health and safety of Americans
everywhere.  Even the administration knows this is a
flawed, dangerous project. We can see this in the
bill. It tells you everything that the administration
knows is wrong with Yucca. They have sent us this
legislation to change the rules, break the law and
prevent states from protecting their citizens.  If
Yucca were scientifically sound - if it genuinely was
a safe place to store nuclear waste - the
administration would not need to gut the laws that
regulate hazardous waste handling and transportation,
clean air, water rights, public land laws, and
environmental policy. If Yucca were scientifically
sound, the administration would not need to preempt
states’ rights.”

Reid, other Members of Congress, and Nevada state and
local officials have been successful in calling
attention to what they contend are scientific,
engineering, and management deficiencies in Yucca
Mountain’s construction and evaluation, which was
originally scheduled to open in 1998.  The Department
of Energy intends to submit a license application for
the repository’s opening to the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission by June 30, 2008.  H.R. 2589
would give NRC one year to act on that application. 
At the hearing, Martin Virgilio of the NRC said the
commission “is not taking a position on most of the
provisions of the legislation,” but said the one-year
deadline (with a possible six-month extension) “does
not appear achievable to us.”  Virgilio advocated a
two-year limit with a six-month extension option. 
Reid’s sentiments were repeated by another witness,
Bob Loux of the Office of the Governor of Nevada, who
declared, “And now you have before you a bill that
attempts, like a cowcatcher on a locomotive, to
anticipate and sweep aside every potential health and
safety obstacle that could upset the relentless drive
to begin receiving waste at Yucca Mountain 11 years
from now.” Geoff Fettus of the Natural Resources
Defense Council, which supports deep geologic
disposal, called the legislation a “misguided effort”
and said, “Congress should not be deciding issues of
ultimate certainty in health and safety judgements,
nor should it be resolving technical disagreements
with the stroke of a pen.” 

Other industry and association witnesses expressed
general support for the legislation, but had concerns
about interim storage provisions in the legislation.

Domenici acknowledges that the bill he will introduce
this month is unlikely to pass Congress this year.  
His strategy is “to get useful input from my Senate
colleagues, the House and other interested parties. 
Yucca Mountain is a complicated issue that evokes
strong, diverse opinions.  That’s why I’m introducing
a bill in [this] the 109th Congress that I will seek
to pass in the 110th Congress.  I intended to create
ample opportunity for constructive dialogue.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
fyi at aip.org    http://www.aip.org/gov
(301) 209-3095

May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower  

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

More information about the RadSafe mailing list