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Public Statements

Nuclear Waste Repositories

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, it's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to come down to the floor and talk about high-level nuclear waste. As you know, through the past year, I've been coming to the floor. I am chairman of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee. We have jurisdiction over a lot of different types of waste. One of those is nuclear waste.

I also have come to the floor to just give a short history lesson on where we're at, where we should be, and the problems that stand in our way. In 1982, the national government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. In 1987 amendments were then offered that said we need to have a long-term geological repository and that repository should be Yucca Mountain.

So I've been going around the country and looking at the different places where we have high-level nuclear waste, whether it's on the west coast, the State of Florida, Massachusetts, in the central part. Today I go to the State of Colorado, which has nuclear waste in the State, and I want to compare it to where it should be.

As a review, Yucca Mountain is, by law, defined as the place where we should put high-level nuclear waste. Currently, there's no nuclear waste on-site. The waste would be stored a thousand feet underground. The waste would be a thousand feet above the water table because it's in a desert. And the waste is 100 miles from the Colorado River.

Now, compare that to the nuclear waste that is at a location called Fort St. Vrain. Currently, there are 30 million tons of uranium, of spent fuel, on-site. The waste is stored above-ground in vaults. The waste is less than 25 feet above the groundwater, and the waste is 1 mile from the South Platte River. A mile from the South Platte River, 100 miles from the Colorado River.

So part of this debate is, why haven't we moved and complied with Federal law? Well, we all know that. It's the Senator from the State of Nevada, who's made it his personal crusade to block our ability to proceed and has blocked funding for the final scientific study.

This whole debate has moved into the political arena, not the arena of law, and in the U.S. Senate you really need 60 votes to move public policy. So I've been coming down to the floor and looking at Senators from States that surround Colorado and see where they have either declared their position or cast votes on the national repository, Yucca Mountain.

As you see, from Texas, you've got Senator Cornyn, who's a yes; Senator Hutchison is a yes. Oklahoma, Senator Coburn's a yes; Senator Inhofe's a yes. New Mexico, Senator Bingaman has voted no. Senator Bennet from Colorado is new, hasn't really stated a position. We'd like to see him get on the record.

My two friends, the Udall cousins, both Tom and Mark, we will check the record, but I believe that they've cast a vote in the Senate, and if not, they haven't stated a recent position.

Why is that important? Because we've been tallying where the Senators are, and right now we really need 60 votes to come to conclusion. We've already spent $15 billion, and we have no nuclear waste on-site. Right now, based upon our calculations, we have 45 Senators that would support moving of high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. We have 17 who we don't know their position, and we have 16 who have stated or they have voted in the past as no. So our challenge here is to get these Senators on record and show the collective will.

Now, we've done it in the House. We've had votes in the House in which we had about 300 Members of this Chamber, a bipartisan vote, in support of moving forward on the funding, the scientific funding to finally finish a single repository at Yucca Mountain.

It's very important for our national security. It's very important for all the locations around. We already have 104 nuclear power plants in this country; all have nuclear waste on-site.

We also have nuclear waste that's involved with our defense industry back at Fort St. Vrain. That waste was supposed to be transported to Idaho, but litigation has kept it there. If we don't move that waste, then by 2035 the Federal Government will have to pay the State of Colorado $15,000 a day until we take the responsibility that we have committed to as a national government.

I appreciate this time, Mr. Speaker, to come down. We'll continue to get through all the U.S. Senators and attempt to try to get to the magic number of 60.

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