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Matheson Wants Tailings Cleanup Deadline Included in Defense Authorization Bill

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Matheson Wants Tailings Cleanup Deadline Included in Defense Authorization Bill

Congressman Jim Matheson added language to a defense bill that would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to complete removal and cleanup of 16 million tons of radioactive waste near the Colorado River by the year 2019. Matheson's amendment was included in debate on the annual defense bill.

Matheson said that the timetable recently outlined by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman projecting completion after 21 years is arbitrary and unacceptable.

"DOE has a miserable record here to be honest and I've fired many shots across the bow before but this was the time for the direct hit," said Matheson. "This business to say 2028 is just unacceptable."

Matheson noted that DOE's own Record of Decision—issued in 2005-- has a 7-10 year timeframe for cleanup. Yet the agency continues to delay and most recently said it wouldn't finish before 2028.

"There's overwhelming scientific evidence that this site is unstable and that the contamination already migrating under the river towards the town of Moab could—with one major flood event—be dumped into the Colorado. That disaster would put the health and safety of 25 million downstream users at risk," said Matheson.

Also included in the Defense Authorization bill (HR 1585) is reduced funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. That is an Energy Department endeavor to spend billions of dollars to design and build a new nuclear weapon. The bill authorizes only $75 million for RRW, $45 million less than requested. Matheson says Congress shouldn't go hastily down a path towards a new weapon that experts argue is not needed and could require the resumption of nuclear weapons testing in Nevada.

"The history of the Department of Energy includes a long list of cancelled and over-budget projects that were started before the objective was thoroughly understood. We cannot make that mistake with the nation's nuclear weapons complex, or the decision to begin building new nuclear weapons," said Matheson.

Matheson said he is pleased that the bill provides no funding—as past defense authorization bills did—for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or "bunker-buster" as it is called.

Other items in the legislation supported by Matheson include: $1 billion to provide the National Guard and Reserve new equipment; $4.1 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles; $1.2 billion for body armor and an end strength increase in the U.S. military of 36,000 soldiers.

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