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Berkley: Budget-Busting Cost, Danger Justify Dumping Yucca Mountain

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today again called on the backers of the failed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump to address the dangers of transporting nuclear waste, scientific flaws at the proposed dump site and the project's need for massive federal spending at a time of limited resources. Berkley's comments follow a hearing before the House Budget Committee on the proposed repository located 90 minutes outside Las Vegas.

"When are we going to hear answers from those out to turn Nevada into a nuclear waste dump about the dangers of shipping this radioactive garbage across the U.S or the $100 billion it will cost to erect this gold-plated white elephant in the Nevada desert," said Berkley," said Berkley. "Nuclear plant operators and regulators agree that waste can be safely stored at existing sites for the next 100 years while we find a real solution to the issue of how to safeguard this toxic nuclear garbage."

Berkley has highlighted a list of issues (below), including scientific shortcomings and transportation dangers, that the backers of Yucca Mountain fail to discuss. The Congresswoman is also working to block efforts underway to revive Yucca Mountain through renewed massive spending.

"Those pushing for more wasteful spending on Yucca Mountain don't want to see the gravy train end, even if it threatens 50 million Americans living along waste transportation routes. Like those who swore the BP oil disaster could never happen, Yucca Mountain's boosters won't talk about the number of lives that would be lost or the cost to clean up a massive nuclear waste spill. Ending the pursuit of Yucca Mountain will end the need for decades of nuclear garbage on America's roads and rails and the threat from accidents or a terrorist strike," said Berkley. "The question is not why did the President end Yucca Mountain, the question is why are backers of the dump too frightened to address its $100 billion cost, flawed science or the threat it poses to families and communities all across our nation."


$100 Billion Budget Busting Price Tag: The Department of Energy has forecast Yucca Mountain's total cost will reach $100 billion. A decade ago, DOE estimated it would cost only $28 billion. The fact remains that no one knows the true final price tag for what would be one of the most expensive projects ever undertaken by the federal government. While billions have already gone into failed efforts to open Yucca, the dump's current final price tag is nearly ten times MORE than what's already been spent. Our nation cannot afford more reckless spending on a $100 billion bloated-budget project which is more than 20 years behind schedule and that threatens the safety of Americans.

Decades of Transportation Dangers: On a daily basis for decades, lethal high-level nuclear waste would be shipped through residential communities in more than 40 states and hundreds of Congressional Districts, close to schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and houses of worship. Each of these shipments represents the distinct possibility for a catastrophic accident or incident of terrorist sabotage. One incident involving deadly nuclear waste could unleash radioactive contamination the likes of which our nation has never faced before. The sheer number of fiery crashes on America's highways and reoccurring accidents involving rail shipments demand we not ignore this very real threat to thousands of communities along waste transportation routes.

Yucca Dump is Geologically Unsafe: Yucca Mountain is on a fault line subject to major earthquakes. This scenario could easily result in the release of massive amounts of radioactivity. Only two years ago it was revealed that planners for the dump actually had to make substantial changes because the fault line was located even closer than previously thought. The release of this amount of radioactivity would threaten the water supplies and the environment of the population centers of the entire Southwest.

On-site Storage Offers True 100 Year Solution Today: On-site storage is available as a means to safeguard waste while a true solution is developed. Experts and regulators agree that by using hardened dry-cask storage containers, waste can be secured for the next 100 years. This avoids the transportation dangers and eliminates the need to spend $100 billion on Yucca Mountain, at a time when our nation is still recovering from an economic crisis.

Storage On-Site Safe for New Nuclear Plants, Safe at Existing Locations: Under the law, no new reactor waste can come to Nevada. New nuclear plants will be required to keep their high-level waste on-site for decades under current contracts. The nuclear industry and its allies support this method of securing waste at new nuclear plants and it can be used to safely do the same at existing facilities.

A False Solution: Even ifYucca Mountain were built, waste would still remain in communities for decades awaiting transport to Nevada. More importantly, as long as a nuclear plant is producing energy, nuclear waste will still remain at reactor sites in communities across the country. So unless a reactor is 100% shut down, radioactive waste will continue to build up at any nuclear plant. And no magic wand can be used to suddenly transport waste all at once to the proposed dump. It is critical to understand that even if Yucca is completed, the Department of Energy has stated waste shipments could take a half-century before cities and towns would see existing waste stockpiles removed.

Yucca Based on Flawed Science: The law requires that Yucca Mountain's geology alone would protect Americans from the high-level nuclear waste to be stored there. But as scientists discovered that Yucca Mountain could not meet the standards set forth by Congress, nuclear waste project managers began unilaterally changing the rules in order to overcome flaws in the site. For example, once it had been determined that water would penetrate Yucca Mountain, plans were altered to include the use of robots to install high-tech umbrellas. A clear lack of technology also continues to plague plans for Yucca Mountain, including the fact that no canister exists that is capable of containing high-level radioactive waste given the rapid corrosion that studies have shown will occur once inside the dump. As casks corrode, radioactivity will be released, tainting essential water supplies.

Yucca Means Higher Energy Costs for Consumers: Families in nuclear states pay higher energy bills as a result of the monthly tax added to cover the cost of Yucca Mountain. Continued spending on Yucca Mountain will only raise energy costs for consumers as they are forced to cover the skyrocketing cost of the proposed dump.

Ending Yucca Won't Force Nuclear Waste on other States: Proponents of Yucca Mountain falsely claim that eliminating Yucca Mountain will force nuclear waste to be moved. Nothing in the law requires that South Carolina, Washington or other states be forced to take additional nuclear waste.

Nuclear Operators Say No Need: Nuclear plants are already utilizing dry-cask storage and operators say there has been no effect on power production as a result of waste remaining at nuclear plants.

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