In anticipation of the conference committee which will work out differences among the respective versions of the House and Senate-passed Energy and Water Appropriations bills, United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House subcommittees urging them to support the bipartisan, House-passed language which funds the storage of nuclear waste inside Nevada's Yucca Mountain. A continuation of the Yucca Mountain project would be an important step in finding a safe, permanent storage facility for our country's nuclear waste and critically important for the State of Illinois.
Illinois has 11 nuclear power plants, more than any other state in the nation. Currently, the spent fuel is stored in dry casks and pools near urban areas and sources of drinking water. At the Zion Nuclear Station, 1,100 tons of waste is stored just yards away from Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water to millions of people. Contamination of Lake Michigan would be devastating to the Great Lakes region.
The situation is similar across the country, with over 65,000 metric tons of nuclear waste stored in 75 temporary locations that threaten cities, suburbs and critical ecosystems essential to the drinking water for millions of Americans. American taxpayers have already invested nearly $15 billion on Yucca Mountain. This letter supports years of science, bipartisan support and billions of dollars to protect American's water, health and national security.
The text of Sen. Kirk's letter is below.
November 18, 2011
Dear Chairmen Feinstein and Frelinghuysen and Ranking Members Alexander and Visclosky:
We write to support the bipartisan language of the House-passed Energy Appropriations bill regarding the storage of nuclear waste inside Yucca Mountain.
When the Executive Branch and Congress chose Yucca Mountain as a nuclear storage facility in 2002, the United States had 47,000 metric tons of waste located across America. With 9 years of further delay, the U.S. is now home to 38% more nuclear waste, totaling over 65,000 metric tons stored in 75 temporary locations not designed as permanent facilities or locations for radioactive materials. Dozens of these sites are close to cities, suburbs and critical ecosystems essential to the drinking water for millions of Americans.
To date, taxpayers paid over $14 billion to select and study the Yucca facility. Because the federal government failed to take ownership of nuclear waste as originally promised, the government paid an additional $956 million in legal fees and payments. The Department of Energy projects taxpayers will have to pay an additional $15 billion in such fees by 2020, with a further cost of $500 million annually if a decision is delayed even further.
The House wisely provided the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with $20 million, $10 million from the Nuclear Waste Fund and $10 million from the DOE departmental administration fund, and the Department of Energy with $25 million to continue Yucca's license application and technical review. In addition, the House directed the Commission to preserve all documentation and data with regard to Yucca.
With billions of taxpayer dollars already spent and the growing age of the temporary storage sites across America, we urge you to support the bipartisan House language. Taxpayers should preserve Yucca Mountain as an option for the transportation of nuclear waste away from cities and ecosystems across America where the permanent storage of nuclear waste is clearly inappropriate.
Mark Kirk Susan Collins
James Inhofe John Thune
Mike Crapo Marco Rubio
Charles Grassley Jon Kyl
John Boozman John Hoeven
Jeff Sessions Kay Bailey Hutchison
Lisa Murkowski Pat Roberts
Roy Blunt Mike Johanns
David Vitter Ronald Johnson
John Barrasso Jim DeMint
Daniel Coats Johnny Isakson
Richard Lugar Olympia Snowe
Michael Enzi John Cornyn
Lindsey Graham Bob Corker
Tom Coburn Saxby Chambliss