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Public Statements

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt to Examine Administration's Decision to Terminate Yucca Mountain Project; South Carolina Witness to Appear

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the budgetary implications of the Administration's decision to terminate the congressionally approved Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project.

"I oppose the Administration's decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain project for two reasons. First, I am concerned that the federal government's failure to resolve the problem of nuclear waste disposal has significant implications for the federal budget. Second, it also means that nuclear waste that belongs in a permanent repository is instead being stored indefinitely at sites including in my state and my district," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt.

Spratt said the committee will hear from David A. Wright, Vice Chairman of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina, who will provide a local perspective on how the delays have affected utilities in his state. In South Carolina, commercial nuclear plants have paid nearly $1.3 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF), which provides funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) to permanently dispose of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. In total, more than $7 billion has already been appropriated from the NWF, and Congress has appropriated another $4 billion for defense-related waste. A large amount of these funds have already been spent to move forward with the congressionally approved Yucca Mountain site.

The hearing will be the first time a DOE official has appeared before Congress since the June 29th decision by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) panel denying DOE's motion to withdraw its Yucca Mountain license application (made in March 2010). The official, Under Secretary Kristina Johnson, will be joined by DOE Counsel Scott Harris.

The Committee will also receive testimony from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Hertz, of the Department of Justice, regarding the litigation the government is facing and the settlements that have been paid out of the government's Judgment Fund.

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Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Time: 10:15 A.M.
Location: 210 Cannon House Office Building

Witnesses:

Panel I:

Kristina M. Johnson, Ph.D.
Under Secretary
Department of Energy

accompanied by:
Scott Blake Harris
General Counsel
Department of Energy

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Michael F. Hertz
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Department of Justice, Civil Division

Panel II:

David A. Wright
Vice Chairman
Public Service Commission of South Carolina

Additional witnesses may be announced.

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Background:

Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) to centralize the long-term management of nuclear waste, including construction of a safe and permanent nuclear waste repository. In 1987 Congress amended the NWPA by designating Yucca Mountain as the only option for a longer-term storage site by a vote of 237-181 in the House of Representatives and 61-28 in the Senate and reaffirmed Yucca Mountain's designation as the only option for a long-term storage site in 2002 by a vote of 306-117 in the House of Representatives and 60-39 in the Senate. Then again in 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected, by a vote of 80-351, an attempt to eliminate funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal program.

The federal government remains more than a decade behind schedule in meeting its legal obligation to remove the waste from commercial nuclear power plants throughout the nation. Federal delays have resulted in additional costs. In addition to direct lifetime project costs for Yucca Mountain that are now estimated at about $100 billion, many utilities have sued the federal government for breach of its responsibilities. They have been winning their lawsuits. Present estimates of the eventual total costs of the awards and settlements related to this litigation range from $12 billion to $30 billion. Each year of delay in meeting the federal responsibility has been estimated to add another $500 million to the federal liability.


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