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Berkley: Plans To Dump Radioactive Waste At Yucca Mountain Only Increase Nuclear Risk To U.S.


Location: Washington, DC

Responding to renewed calls for dumping radioactive waste in Nevada, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today rejected claims that Yucca Mountain's opening would decrease the risk the U.S. faces created by nuclear energy. Berkley's statement appears below:
"It is outrageous to claim that dumping nuclear waste on top of an earthquake zone in Nevada would do anything but increase the danger to Americans from nuclear materials and nuclear power plants. Yucca Mountain is located in an area that has been rocked by violent earthquakes in the past that is also part of a volcanic zone.
"At a time when the world is watching in horror as Japan's nuclear tragedy unfolds before our eyes, can anyone actually argue that it's a good idea to unleash decades of nuclear waste shipments on communities across the U.S. incapable of dealing with the death and environmental destruction that a disaster involving this radioactive garbage is capable of inflicting. Whether it's a natural disaster involving a train or truck carrying nuclear waste or a deliberate 9/11 style terrorist attack on even a single one of these shipments, the risk to human lives and the potential for billions in economic damages are exactly the same and that's a gamble that our nation cannot afford to take.
"There is no question we need to protect families against the dangers we face from our current nuclear policy. But I will not let those who claim that Yucca Mountain is part of the answer ignore the threat this failed project represents, not only to my home State of Nevada and its residents, but to Americans all across our nation. Let us stop wasting money pursuing Yucca Mountain and start focusing instead on securing waste at existing plant sites in hardened bunkers that will keep these materials isolated from our communities.
"I have been calling for the use of dry-cask storage for more than a decade and the NRC has approved this option which is already in use at a growing number of facilities around our nation. While some in the nuclear industry continue resisting dry-cask storage for fear of losing political leverage on Yucca Mountain, I would hope that with what we are witnessing in Japan, these pro-dump forces would put concern for safeguarding lives above concerns about profits for plant operators and energy companies."


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.
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.
On-site Storage Available 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.
$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.
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.

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