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Yucca Mountain

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor a second time, as I promised a couple of weeks ago, to talk about high-level nuclear waste in the Yucca Mountain repository.

Two weeks ago I highlighted Hanford, Washington, a DOE site that has 53 million gallons of nuclear waste--53 million gallons of nuclear waste that's stored 10 feet underground in tanks that are leaking. The waste is 250 feet above the water table and the waste is 1 mile from the Columbia River, versus Federal law which said in 1982 that Yucca Mountain should be our national repository.

Now let's look at Yucca Mountain. Right now there's no nuclear waste on site. The waste would be stored a thousand feet underground. The waste is a thousand feet above the water table, and the waste would be 100 miles from the Colorado River; 100 miles versus 1 mile, high-level nuclear waste, especially with Hanford where you have nuclear waste that actually is leaking outside the tanks.

So then my response was: What are the Senators in these two States doing and what's their position? The reason why we're not moving to Yucca Mountain is because of one U.S. Senator, the majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, who has blocked the movement of Yucca Mountain.

Obviously, these Senators have an interest because of the Columbia River, and I was trying to encourage them, through the use of the bully pulpit, that this was a time to move to get this resolution resolved, especially after Fukushima Daiichi, everybody following the tragedy in Japan, and part of that was high-level nuclear waste in storage ponds right on site.

Since then, I have been able to get a few quotes from these Senators, or researched them. Senator Cantwell said: ``The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the best approach is to bury nuclear waste deep underground. Since that conclusion, Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been chosen as the national repository.''

Senator Murray said this: ``I believe that it is irresponsible for the Department of Energy to discontinue the Yucca program altogether, its funding, licensing and design.''

Senator Wyden has said: ``I don't see that (Yucca Mountain will reopen). I think that there'll be an effort to look at new technologies and on-site storage and a whole host of approaches, but I don't think that's going to happen.''

So Senator Wyden is accepting this in Hanford, a mile from the Columbia River.

Senator Merkley has been quiet, as far as we could find from the Google search pairing his name and any Yucca Mountain comments.

Now, lest people think I'm picking on the Northwest, let me go to my home State of Illinois. So one facility, Zion Nuclear Power Station, it's a decommissioned plant but there's still 65 casks containing 1,135 metric tons of nuclear waste, versus Yucca Mountain, which has zero.

The waste at Zion is stored above the ground; the waste at Yucca Mountain would be a thousand feet below the surface. The waste at Zion is 5 feet above the water table; the waste at Yucca Mountain would be a thousand feet. The waste at Yucca Mountain is 100 miles from the Colorado River; the waste from Zion is 1,300 feet from Lake Michigan.

I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that Yucca Mountain is safer than storing high-level nuclear waste next to Lake Michigan.

So what have our Senators said?

Well, let's start with Senator Durbin. He's quoted as saying: ``There are a lot of options out there. But I have supported Yucca in the past, and I am not walking away from that. I just think we need to consider other options as well.''

I want him to obviously continue to consider Yucca Mountain.

Senator Kirk has said: ``I think in the end Congress needs to fight and win the battle to build the Yucca Mountain facility so that we can store nuclear waste 1,000 feet below the surface.''

I agree.

Senator Kohl is quoted as saying: ``This site, on the Nevada nuclear test site''--that's what people don't know is that Yucca Mountain is also the Nevada nuclear test site. That's where we tested the nuclear bombs during the nuclear arms race and the nuclear age. So Senator Kohl is correct in saying: ``This site, on the Nevada nuclear test site, is certainly safer than leaving the waste at 132 sites nationwide, sites scattered around the country that were never designed to be a permanent solution.''

Senator Johnson is silent.

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