U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, together with Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have filed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would restore $50M cut in Defense Contribution for Yucca Mountain Repository Program. The Administration requested $247.4 million, the House included $247.4 in its bill, and the Senate should fully fund this request as well.
Sen. Inhofe: "The United States Senate needs to continue authorizes our contribution to the repository program to cover the costs of defense-related nuclear wastes that require disposal. The request was asked by for the President and included by the House - the Senate needs to do the same. The amendment we filed today would do restore the $50 million dollar cut. Unfortunately, here in the US Senate, politics is once again trumping progress on a facility that is necessary to clean up our Cold War legacy of nuclear wastes. This is a prime example of the repository program struggling to cope with death by a thousand cuts.' Every year, funding reductions such as this one continually force DOE to stall work on the repository. The repository should have opened in 1998, but instead, it is over 20 years behind schedule."
Sen. Craig: "Our Nation remains dedicated to developing clean, renewable energy to power the economy of the future, but we are still dealing with a Cold War legacy that requires a national repository," Senator Larry Craig said. "Congress's failure to fund this project, while energy prices squeeze consumers in nearly every segment of the economy, has set us back at least ten years. Nuclear power is the clean, affordable power source Americans have been searching for, and properly funding the Yucca Mountain repository is a step we cannot delay."
Sen. Crapo: "Nuclear energy remains a key source in broadening our national energy portfolio and finishing the construction of a national repository for nuclear materials is critical to succeeding in that effort," Crapo said. "It is essential we finish work at Yucca Mountain to remove cold war legacy nuclear materials now stored in Idaho. Yucca is already 10 years behind schedule because of delays largely created by Congress. It is time to move ahead aggressively on alternative energy sources like nuclear power and opening Yucca is a national priority."
Just this week, the NRC announced that it will begin its lengthy review of DOE's license application for authorization to build the repository, a milestone that should have been achieved in the early 90's. Full funding of the defense contribution is necessary to support the NRC's review and specific licensing activities related to defense waste and Naval spent fuel from sites in Hanford, Washington; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Savannah River, South Carolina.
The repository program needs adequate resources to address licensing questions regarding additional defense waste requiring disposal, characterization of those wastes, and the design of the facility that will handle these wastes. Reductions in the defense contribution will likely impede the Department's ability to respond in a timely manner to NRC requests, possibly delaying the NRC's review, and ultimately the construction of the repository and acceptance of defense waste for disposal.
We have an obligation to clean up the nuclear wastes that resulted from developing our nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. That requires a nuclear waste repository. Stalling progress on this facility is irresponsible and unfair to states that have shouldered this patriotic burden. This is certainly not an obligation that should fall prey to petty politics.