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The Hill's Congress Blog - Commission Calls for Permanent Nuclear Waste Facility


Location: Washington, DC

By Representative John Shimkus

Nearly three decades since the debate over America's high-level nuclear waste disposal began, the science remains clear that permanent geological storage of spent fuel is superior to our present quagmire of on-site storage.

Yet in the wake of the Administration's political blockade of an independent technical evaluation of the repository at Yucca Mountain, the resulting Blue Ribbon Commission found what many of us have long been saying about the failed management of nuclear waste. The Commission's report correctly advises control of the Nuclear Waste Fund be removed from the purse strings of political ideologues and entrusted to "a new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program" set forth under law.

It is clear the dysfunction within and between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy has rendered the current waste management structure ineffective. Future generations ought not be shouldered with the burden of 65,200 - and growing - metric tons of nuclear waste simply because of a bureaucratic failure to carry out the law of the land.

Yucca Mountain remains the most shovel-ready, thoroughly studied geological repository for spent nuclear fuel. Those who advocate abandoning this site do so for purely political purposes. Thirty years of scientific study, $15 billion, and, quite frankly, common sense, support the current requirement to secure high-level nuclear waste on federal property, under a mountain, in a desert.

The reality is if we cannot agree an old nuclear weapons test site is a better place to store radioactive waste than on the shores of Lake Michigan, the banks of the Savannah River, or the beaches of the Pacific Ocean - we will never reach an agreement.

Our nuclear waste is not going away for millions of years. The American people and Members on both sides of the aisle realize this. Even those who oppose this carbon-emission free energy must accept the sheer tonnage of what already exists. This debate is not about pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. As the Blue Ribbon Commission report shows, this debate is about the present legacy of irresponsibility we are leaving for future generations.

Possibly no other 230 square miles in the world have been examined and reexamined more by America's greatest scientific minds than Yucca Mountain. We should let the experts complete the technical review and, when the science is settled yet again, move forward on Yucca Mountain as our secure, permanent geological repository for high-level nuclear waste.

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