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Public Statements

Yucca Mountain

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Speaker, I've come back to the floor, as I have almost weekly since this Congress, to talk about nuclear waste.

It's kind of unique to follow my friend from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich) because we are a nuclearized country; we do have nuclear weapons. A lot of our nuclear weapons were developed from World War II. And guess where the waste still is from World War II? Still buried in silos under the ground in Hanford, Washington. That's a legacy of 50 years of nuclear waste that we still have yet to address--not including the nuclear waste for fuel, which is what I'm going to talk about today. I'm going to the State of Michigan and the State of Indiana.

Michigan has five nuclear reactors. They're all on the Great Lakes--either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, I think--and the waste is right next to these Great Lakes. So we want to do a comparison/contrast, as I do every week based upon a region of the country, and compare where the nuclear waste is in Michigan to where it should be, under Federal law--the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the adjoining amendments passed in 1987--that says we need to consolidate our high-level nuclear waste and put it in one single repository that is underneath a mountain in a desert, and that place is Yucca Mountain.

So let's compare the two locations. I'm picking the Cook Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan, comparing it to Yucca Mountain. How much nuclear waste do we have at Yucca Mountain? Zero. How much do we have at Cook? We have 1,433 metric tons of uranium--this is of waste--at just one nuclear facility at Cook.

Where is the waste stored? At Yucca, it would be 1,000 feet underground. Where is the nuclear waste stored at Cook? Well, it's stored above ground in pools and in casks. How is it compared to the groundwater issue? Well, at Yucca Mountain it would be 1,000 feet above the water table. As we know, at Cook it's 19 feet above the groundwater table.

Yucca Mountain is 100 miles from the only body of water you can find in a desert, and that's the Colorado River. That's 100 miles away. How far is the nuclear waste at Cook? Well, you can see from the picture it is next to Lake Michigan. So in a comparison/contrast, it's easy to see that Yucca would be a safer place to put high-level nuclear waste than Cook Generating Station in Michigan.

So what have the U.S. Senators done from the surrounding States on this position of, should they have nuclear waste in their State or should they not? Senator Coats is supportive of Yucca Mountain. Senator Lugar is supportive of Yucca Mountain--I have quotes here that affirm that. Senator Levin has voted for Yucca Mountain and supports that. And our friend, my former classmate here in the Chamber--and she is a good friend of mine--Debbie Stabenow, has not supported Yucca Mountain.

So part of why I'm coming down to the floor is just to help paint the picture that there is nuclear waste all over this country--104 different reactors, not including our defense waste--and it's stored all over the place. Wouldn't it be better to have a centralized location to put the nuclear waste in? So I've been doing a tally of U.S. Senators, and we finally got over the 50 Senator mark. Because of the Senate rules, you know you have to break the filibuster. That's 60 votes.

It's interesting now, based upon the information, past information--whether gleaned from votes or public statements--we have 54 U.S. Senators who say we ought to have Yucca Mountain as our single repository. We have 19 that we really have no record of a statement or a vote. And then we have 21 that have, either as a former House Member or a public statement, said, no, we don't think Yucca Mountain is a place for nuclear waste to go.

We still have a couple more States to go, and we're hoping that we get to a 60-vote position to make the claim throughout the country that these Senators should really deal with this issue of high-level nuclear waste, not just the spent fuel, but, as we talked about earlier, the defense waste in this country.

This was a promise made to the ratepayers of States that have nuclear power. The government said we're going to charge you extra for your electricity. We will take your money, and we will build a long-range geological repository for nuclear waste, and that's Yucca Mountain.

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