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Yucca Mountain: High-Level Nuclear Waste Storage

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Shimkus) for 5 minutes.

Mr. SHIMKUS. It's always great to follow the highly respected minority whip, and he is highly respected.

I would say that there are a lot of pressing problems in this country. There is one I'll speak about today, and that's the high-level nuclear waste storage throughout this country. I would also say to my friend that part of the jobs bill has been passed. We passed the free trade agreement; we passed the veterans benefit portion; we passed the 3 percent withholding. So there has been movement in a bipartisan manner on some provisions in the bill.

So now, Mr. Speaker, let me segue to an issue for which I've come to the floor now six times, that of going throughout the country and highlighting where high-level nuclear waste is stored throughout this country.

Today, we'll travel to the State of Massachusetts, right on Cape Cod Bay where the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant sits. Again, it's right on Cape Cod Bay. At Pilgrim, there are over 2,918 spent-fuel assemblies on site. Yucca Mountain, which is the defined storage location, by law, in the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, currently has no nuclear waste on site. I like to keep highlighting the real distinct differences based upon the years of talking about this issue and highlighting some of the arguments against Yucca, comparing it to where we have nuclear waste today.

So let's, again, continue to look at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant. The waste is stored aboveground in pools, very similar to Fukushima-Diachi in Japan. At Yucca the waste will be stored 1,000 feet underground--above the ground in pools, 1,000 feet underground. I think Yucca is a better location. At Pilgrim the waste is 20 feet from the water table. At Yucca it would be 1,000 feet above the water table. I think that's a better, safer and more secure location. You can see the Pilgrim plant is right on Cape Cod Bay, right next to the water. Yucca Mountain is situated 100 miles from, really, the nearest body of water, which would be the Colorado River.

Now, for those who have been following my time in coming to the floor, this is my sixth time. I started at Hanford, a DOE facility in Washington State, and compared it to Yucca Mountain. I then went to Zion. I've got my friend from Chicago right here. Zion is right on Lake Michigan, which is a decommissioned nuclear power plant that still has waste stored on site; but Wisconsin has two nuclear power plants right on Lake Michigan.

Then I went to Savannah, Georgia, to talk about the nuclear waste there. Of course, it has the Savannah River; so it's right next to the Savannah River. Then I went out to California to look at San Onofre, the nuclear power plant that's right on the Pacific Ocean. Then I went to Idaho and looked at the Idaho National Labs and the nuclear waste stored there. Today, we go to Massachusetts.

The point being, there is high-level nuclear waste stored all over this country, and a single repository at Yucca Mountain makes sense for all of the right reasons: it's over 100 miles from the largest city; it's in the desert; it would be underneath a mountain. There is no more safe, secure location.

Why are we not moving forward? Because this administration has decided not to spend the money needed to finish the final environmental study through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

So where are our Senators on this position? I've been bringing this down to the floor through all these States. We need 60 votes in the Senate to secure America's nuclear waste. Right now, through the States, based upon the States we've identified, there are 20 ``yeses.'' We've got about seven who are relatively new. We don't know their positions. Of course, we have established five who are ``noes.'' There are some in the New England States that I mentioned:

Susan Collins voted for Yucca Mountain in 2002. Olympia Snowe voted for it in 2002. Senator Kerry voted against it. Now, Pilgrim is in the State of Massachusetts. Based upon his statement, I guess Senator Kerry feels that Pilgrim is a more safe and secure location than Yucca Mountain. Scott Brown has no position yet. Senator Ayotte has no position. Senator Shaheen has no position. Of course, the Independent from Vermont has voted ``no.''

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