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Public Statements

High-Level Nuclear Waste

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I come back to the floor again this week to continue to talk about high-level nuclear waste and its location around the country.

This week really saddens me because, in the weeks past when I've identified the U.S. Senators from the appropriate States, usually I would have more in support of moving their high-level nuclear waste out of their State than who wants to vote to keep it in their State. As I go to Connecticut today and the States surrounding Connecticut, it is really amazing how many Senators have gone on record to say, No, it is okay; we will just keep this nuclear waste in our State for 15, 20, 25 more years.

With that, let's look at the options we have here.

The nuclear power plant that I'm addressing today is called Millstone. It is in Connecticut. I always like to compare it to where the high-level nuclear waste should be, which is underneath a mountain, in a desert in Nevada, at Yucca Mountain, where, in 1987, we passed into law and said Yucca Mountain will be the location for our high-level nuclear waste. It is the law of the land.

How have we done? How much nuclear waste is at Yucca Mountain, this mountain in the desert? We don't have any. We've already spent $15 billion. The waste would be stored 1,000 feet underground. The waste would be stored 1,000 feet above the water table. The waste would be 100 miles from the nearest body of water, which would be the Colorado River.

Well, let's compare it to Millstone in Connecticut. Right now, Millstone has 1,350 million tons of uranium spent nuclear fuel on site. The waste is stored in pools and in dry casts. The waste is 15 to 20 feet from the water table. It is on Niantic Bay, just off Long Island Sound. Here's a picture. Here's the nuclear power plant; here's the bay. It's right next to the water. And without moving forward on Yucca Mountain, this waste will continue to be stored there 15, 20, 25 more years.

So let's look at the Senators from the surrounding States that border this body of water. We have Senator Blumenthal--new. He said in a campaign interview that he opposed Senator Reid's fight to prevent Yucca Mountain, so we put him in the ``yes'' column. Senator Lieberman voted ``no'' in 2002, so we put him in the ``no'' column. Senator Lautenberg from New Jersey voted ``no'' on the Senate Appropriations Committee amendment to restore funding, so we put him in the ``no'' column. Senator Menendez from New Jersey has been a vocal critic, and so he's in the ``no'' column. Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York, we have her as undecided. We're kind of waiting for her to take a position. Part of this debate is to at least get Senators on the record somehow to see where they will be on this position.

Senator Schumer--obviously fairly close to Connecticut and New York City--he had voted ``no'' in '02. Senator Jack Reed--actually a pretty good friend of mine--from Rhode Island voted ``no'' in 2002. Senator Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, we have as really ``undecided.'' Two ``undecided,'' a whole bunch of ``nays,'' and one ``yes.''

So how does that do for our totality of where Senators are at this time based upon the information we have? Well, we have 41 Senators who say we need to move high-level nuclear waste out of our State to a desert underneath a mountain. We have 14 that we really have no public record on. We'd like to see the Senate sometime take a vote and figure out where they might be. And we have 15 ``nays.''

Now, why is this important? The Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982 said: Let's find a single repository. The Blue Ribbon Commission, which testified before my committee just last week, said: We need a long-term geological repository. As I quoted in a story yesterday, Brent Scowcroft, the cochair, said: We're not excluding Yucca Mountain, but we have so much nuclear waste now that we're going to have to find a second location.

So you can continue your fight on Yucca Mountain, but the Blue Ribbon Commission said we need a long-term geological storage centralized. We're just saying we already have one. If we're going to need a second one, then we better start that process of looking at a second one, but we ought to start filling up the first one.

We spent $15 billion. And why aren't we moving forward? Well, we have the majority leader of the Senate who says no. In fact, my colleague, Mr. Clyburn, was quoted in a paper as saying: As long as Harry Reid is alive, Yucca is dead.

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