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Public Statements

High-Level Nuclear Waste Disposal

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, before my freshman colleagues get too concerned, I am only going to go a couple of minutes to talk about why I have been coming to the floor once each week for a whole debate on high-level nuclear waste and a national repository that is defined in law, a law passed in 1982 that that national repository would be at Yucca Mountain. So I have been going through a geography lesson about where we have nuclear waste in this country, comparing it to the site at Yucca Mountain, and then addressing the positions of our colleagues on the Senate side from those affected States.

The House has spoken on Yucca Mountain again this year in a vote in which 297 of my colleagues joined me in ensuring that we had enough money to finish the scientific study to finally bring closure to Yucca Mountain and, if the science is sound, then start moving high-level nuclear waste from all over this country to a single repository. So today I come to the floor to highlight another location.

This is Yucca Mountain. And I want to remind folks that Yucca Mountain has no nuclear waste onsite right now. The waste, once it gets to Yucca Mountain, will be stored 1,000 feet underground. The nuclear waste will be 1,000 feet above the groundwater. And Yucca Mountain is 100 miles from the Colorado River. So it's pretty far. It's in a mountain. It's in a desert. It is pretty far from ever being close to major bodies of water. And what's been interesting is, as we go around geographically, we find that we have high-level nuclear waste right next to major rivers and major lakes throughout the country.

This is one of the most compelling sites in our tour so far. This is a nuclear power plant in California called San Onofre. And if you look at this--yes, this is the ocean. Here is the nuclear power plant. And yes, these are waves that are coming up to the rocky shoreline and a concrete barrier that leads to the nuclear power plant.

Now compare San Onofre with Yucca Mountain. There are 2,300 waste rods--that's nuclear waste rod material--onsite here right next to the Pacific Ocean. There's none at Yucca Mountain in the desert. The waste is stored above the ground and in pools here. The waste will be stored 1,000 feet underground at Yucca Mountain. The waste here is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. You can see the waves. Yucca Mountain is in a desert, and it's 100 miles from the Colorado River. San Onofre is 45 miles from San Diego. Yucca Mountain is over 100 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. So if you want to compare and contrast where we should have nuclear waste, would it be next to the Pacific Ocean? Or should it be in a desert underneath a mountain? I would think most Americans and my colleagues on the House floor agree, based upon our 297-vote total, that it should be in a geological repository underneath a mountain in a desert.

So let's look at the surrounding Senators and what are their current positions as far as we can determine. Senator Boxer says that if the Yucca project is constructed, there will be thousands of shipments of high-level nuclear waste transported through California. She voted ``no'' on Yucca Mountain in 2002. Senator Feinstein, after Fukushima Daiichi, said, ``I had always thought we didn't need one. Yesterday''--and that was the day after the damage done because of the tsunami in Japan--``yesterday candidly changed my mind.'' She voted ``no'' to Yucca in 2002. I think she might be reconsidering.

Senator McCain voted ``yes'' in 2002. ``I was absolutely opposed to its closure,'' he said, referring to Yucca Mountain. ``It's absolutely ridiculous to not have Yucca Mountain after developing it over a 20-year process.'' I would agree with Senator McCain. We've already spent $12.5 billion for Yucca Mountain. I think it's time that we finish the project. Senator Kyl is quoted--these are the two Senators from Arizona, next to California--and he used this example of just everyday residential waste. He says, ``It is a little like saying since every Wednesday morning, everybody in my area of Phoenix is going to put their garbage out, and because we keep producing garbage, we should not have a dump to where all that garbage is taken. If we produce more garbage and store it onsite, it is, in effect, storing it on the curb. That doesn't argue for the proposition that there should not be a central repository where that material is taken and disposed of in a proper way.''

So I come back down to the floor to highlight another location where you have high-level nuclear waste near a major body of water, the Pacific Ocean, not in the desert as defined by law we should.

Other States and locations that I've talked about, I first went to Hanford which is high-level nuclear waste, 23 million gallons in tanks that are leaking a mile from the Columbia River. Then I went to Zion.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Reclaiming my time, as my colleagues know, Senator Kirk is strongly in support of moving high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. Senator Durbin said the right things. We just want him now to lead on that issue for the importance of the State of Illinois.

Another week I talked about the Savannah River site, nuclear waste right on the Savannah River, and highlighted the Senators there. And now I end up this week talking about California. This is not the only nuclear power plant that's on the Pacific Ocean. There's one in San Luis Obispo.

I appreciate my colleagues allowing me this time to do my weekly process of talking about high-level nuclear waste. It's the law of the land, and we're going to continue to work hard until we get this done and we move and have a central repository for high-level nuclear waste in Las Vegas, in Nevada at Yucca Mountain.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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