Governor Opposes Proposed Interim Nuclear Waste Storage Plan
November 16, 2006
AUGUSTA - Governor John Baldacci today joined an effort by the Governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and other U.S. states to oppose a federal legislative initiative to establish interim nuclear waste storage sites across the country. The provision, Section 313 in the current version of the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, is a step backward in the long-standing federal policy to establish a permanent disposal facility.
"Leaving high-level nuclear waste in thirty-one states is not a viable option," said Governor Baldacci. "Temporary nuclear waste storage facilities pose significant safety and security issues in Maine and other states that have or have had commercial nuclear power plants. This proposal takes away a state's ability to reject a storage site within its borders. Additionally, Maine ratepayers have been assessed payments for the federal Nuclear Waste Funds, and we expect the federal government to comply with its mandate to safely remove these dangerous materials; not to divert funds for the national repository for construction of interim facilities."
In July, Governor Baldacci wrote to Senator Pete Dominici, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to oppose any such plan to temporarily store high-level radioactive nuclear waster on site at current and decommission nuclear facilities. The Governor requested expedition completion of the nation's permanent repository site at Yucca Mountain.
"In today's world, the security concerns of Americans are not well served by having thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste left in facilities in thirty-one states, including Maine," wrote the Governor in the July correspondence. "Our best interests will be served by consolidating these materials in a facility selected for its remoteness and for its ability to be secured."
In late September, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found in favor of Yankee Atomic against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the federal department's failure to meet the statutory obligation to remove radioactive nuclear material from Maine Yankee and other facilities. In that decision, Yankee Atomic was awarded nearly $76 million in damages. The federal DOE is expected to appeal the decision.
"The current federal mandate is clear," said Governor Baldacci. "The federal government needs to hold to its agreement to move nuclear waste from Maine and other states to a permanent national facility. The interim storage facility provision in the current Senate appropriations bill runs counter to that goal."
The text of the letter drafted signed by seventeen governors follows. The correspondence is addressed to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
Dear Chairman Cochran, Chairman Lewis, Ranking Member Byrd and Ranking Member Obey:
We write in strong opposition to language included in Section 313 of the Senate-reported version of the Fiscal Year 2007 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act that proposes to use ratepayer monies to create new federal interim storage sites throughout the United States.
We certainly appreciate Congress' longstanding bipartisan support for a permanent solution to our nation's nuclear waste problem. However, providing the Department of Energy with new, expansive authority to create numerous nuclear waste storage sites represents a stark retreat from the language and spirit of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and its establishment of a centralized repository. Shifting the federal program's focus away from a repository to the construction, licensing and operation of many interim storage sites across the country could harm disposal efforts irreparably, resulting in such temporary facilities becoming de facto final resting places for nuclear waste.
Furthermore, Section 313 would direct the Department to establish new state and regional waste storage sites without the consent and over the potential objections of governors. This is wholly unacceptable to our constituents and us. A matter as important, complex, and inherently controversial as storage of the nation's nuclear waste deserves a thorough, open public debate. And, in order for any federal proposal addressing nuclear waste storage to succeed, states must be full and equal partners in the process. Unfortunately, Section 313 does not live up to this standard.
Finally, Section 313 appears to violate the standard contract our utilities entered into with the federal government for permanent disposal of nuclear waste. Section 313 proposes to use money deposited into the Nuclear Waste Fund by ratepayers in our states and others for the purpose of establishing and operating interim storage facilities. However, the Nuclear Waste Fund is both statutorily and contractually limited in its use to paying for activities related to the permanent disposal of nuclear waste. By seeking to use the Fund for interim storage activities that are authorized neither by statute or contract, this Section 313 raises the prospect of substantial litigation by stakeholders concerned about the diversion of ratepayer monies for unauthorized purposes.
Whatever the intention, Section 313 of the Senate Energy and Water Development legislation constitutes a giant step backward for ratepayers in our states and others who have contributed more than $14 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund. The language is not supported by the nuclear industry, and the US Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission have stated publicly their serious concern with this proposal. They are rightly troubled that the safety, security, environmental, transportation, infrastructure and cost challenges associated with developing and maintaining multiple federal nuclear waste storage sites across the nation will undermine already lagging efforts to establish a permanent repository.
Thank you for your serious consideration of our views. We urge Congress to reject Section 313 of the Senate-reported version of the Fiscal Year 2007 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.
Governor Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey
Governor M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, Michigan
Governor Jeb Bush, Florida
Governor Janet Napolitano, Arizona
Governor Rod Blagojevich, Illinois
Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas
Governor John Baldacci, Maine
Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota
Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi
Governor John Lynch, New Hampshire
Governor George E. Pataki, New York
Governor Michael F. Easley, North Carolina
Governor Brad Henry, Oklahoma
Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski, Oregon
Governor Mark Sanford, South Carolina
Governor Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming