Obama Bill Requiring Notification of Unplanned Release of Radioactive Substances Passes Senate Committee
Legislation authored by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that would require nuclear power companies to quickly inform state and local officials of accidental or unintentional leaks of radioactive substances passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today unanimously.
"I think all of us would want to know if potentially hazardous materials were released into our communities," said Senator Obama. "This common sense bill will help ensure that state and local officials are notified within 24-hours if a leak occurs, and that concerned parents and citizens won't have to rely on the federal government or an image-conscious corporation to get information."
Senator Obama's legislation requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to develop new state and local notification requirements within two years. Current federal law does not require state and local officials to be notified of any accidental, unplanned, or unintentional radioactive substance releases that may occur if those releases do not immediately rise to the level of public health or safety emergency.
Obama introduced this legislation in response to a series of reports that Illinois nuclear power plants failed to disclose that a radioactive substance called tritium had leaked into the groundwater. Tritium is a form of radioactive water that is created by a nuclear plant's operation.
Earlier this year, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) announced that it would put in place a voluntary policy to improve communications after unplanned radiological releases into the groundwater. Senator Obama said he believes that Congress should also act to ensure that strong, effective regulations are put in place.
Since learning about this issue from constituents living in Will and Grundy counties, Senator Obama has committed to passing legislation to address the problem and to pressuring the NRC to take action. Senator Obama questioned then NRC Chairman Dr. Nils J. Diaz about these incidents at an NRC oversight hearing in March of 2006, and asked new NRC Chairman Dale Klein about the issue during his confirmation process