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Public Statements

Yucca Mountain

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor again to continue to identify and educate you on the various locations where we store high-level nuclear waste around this country and the various positions that our colleagues in the other Chamber have voted either for or against, in hopes that eventually the public will become well informed and that they will take action through their elected officials to do even what the Blue Ribbon Commission suggested, which is decide and locate a long-term geological storage facility.

This is not new. We've been doing it for decades. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was established in 1982. The amendments were passed through this Chamber and signed into law in 1987, which identified a long-term geological repository at a place called Yucca Mountain in the desert in Nevada.

What I've been attempting to do throughout this past year and a half--I chair a subcommittee that has direct responsibility for this--is identify different locations. So today we go to a place very close to here. In fact, I think it's only 43 miles from the District of Columbia, and that's a place called Calvert Cliffs. I like to compare and contrast it with where our nuclear waste should be stored, not in a decade or two from now, but at this very moment where it should be.

Calvert Cliffs is in Maryland, and at Calvert Cliffs there are 1,300 metric tons of uranium, of spent fuel, onsite versus Yucca Mountain, which is a mountain in a desert where we have no nuclear waste onsite. At Calvert Cliffs, this spent nuclear fuel is stored above the ground in pools and in casks above the ground. If it were stored at Yucca Mountain, it would be 1,000 feet underground. At Calvert Cliffs, the nuclear waste is stored 85 feet above the groundwater, and at Yucca Mountain, it would be 1,000 feet above the water table. Finally, at Yucca Mountain, the nearest body of water is the Colorado River, about 100 miles. As you can see here in this photo, Calvert Cliffs is right next to Chesapeake Bay.

Yucca Mountain is about 90 miles from Las Vegas, maybe 100 miles from Las Vegas. Calvert Cliffs is a straight line of 43 miles from Washington, D.C. The Senators from the surrounding areas, how did they vote? You would think they wouldn't want high-level nuclear waste next to Chesapeake Bay, 43 miles from the capital city. Well, Senator Carper voted ``no'' in 2002. Senator Coons, a new Member, we don't know his position. That's part of coming down here. I'm pretty sure that if the majority leader of the Senate would call a vote and this issue was thoroughly debated, it would pass on the floor of the Senate because we have a lot of Senators who have yet to declare their position. Here is Senator Cardin, a former Member of the House, who voted ``yea'' in 2002 for Yucca Mountain. Senator Mikulski, the same; different Chamber, voted ``no.''

How does our national tally go? Currently we have 47 U.S. Senators who have a stated position in support of Yucca Mountain. We have over 16 that have never cast a vote or declared their position on what we do with high-level nuclear waste, either spent fuel or nuclear waste, in the processing of nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

We have 19 who have had a position of ``no'' at some time in their career. So it's very, very important to continue this debate, Mr. Speaker, to continue to come down on the floor to talk about the Federal law as it is to date.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed in 1982; the amendment was agreed to in 1987. The amendment identified Yucca Mountain as our long-term geological repository to store high-level nuclear waste. The time is well past since we should be doing this. In fact, we actually pay utilities to hold their nuclear waste since it's our responsibility to take the waste.

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