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Public Statements

High-Level Nuclear Waste

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, on June 6, 2012, I offered an amendment to the Energy and Water appropriations bill to do the final scientific study to certify Yucca Mountain as the repository for high-level nuclear waste in this country, and I was joined by a large bipartisan amount from this Chamber, 326 ``yes'' votes, which I appreciate my colleagues who supported this amendment.

Among those in the Michigan delegation, which has 15 Members, there were 11 ``yes'' votes and only four ``no'' votes. Why is this all important? Because what I've tried to do over the past year and a half is help the educational process in explaining where nuclear waste is in this country and where it should be. We did pass a law back in 1982. I wasn't here then. Many of us were not. Then there were amendments to that law in 1987 that said Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be our repository, a long-term geological repository for high-level nuclear waste.

In Michigan, there are five nuclear power plants. They are all located along the Great Lakes. There's three on Lake Michigan, one on, I think, Lake Erie, right next to large bodies of water. Let's compare one of those, Cook, which has high-level nuclear waste on-site next to Lake Michigan, to where it should be, which is Yucca Mountain.

Currently at Cook, there are 1,433 metric tons of uranium of spent fuel on-site. At Yucca Mountain, which should be our single repository, there's currently none. Again, we started this in 1982. If it was at Yucca Mountain, it would be stored 1,000 feet underground. At Cook, it's stored aboveground in pools and in casks. If it was at Yucca Mountain, it would be 1,000 feet above the water table. At Cook, the nuclear waste is 19 feet above the water table. At Yucca Mountain, it would be 100 miles from the Colorado River where it is right next to Lake Michigan.

Yucca Mountain is obviously a mountain in a desert. There is no safer place.

So, as I mentioned, in the vote total from my colleagues here on the floor, we addressed this on the floor. We took a vote, 326 out of 425. That's a huge bipartisan majority.

Where do the Senators stand on this position? Well, you have three ``yes'' votes and one ``no'' vote. And actually, the ``no'' vote is a very good friend of mine, a former classmate in the House, Senator Stabenow of Michigan, who has voted against moving that nuclear waste out of her State into a mountain underneath the desert.

And part of this process is, because it is now politicized with the majority leader blocking any movement on this--elections have consequences; they matter--and it's time to educate the public throughout the country about which Senators support moving nuclear waste out of their State to a single repository and who does not. And, unfortunately, my friend Senator Stabenow is on the list as not being helpful.

I also have done this numerous times. I have gone through the whole country and covered all the Senators as far as public statements or actual votes. And as you see, we have 55 Senators who said, yes, let's move this to Yucca Mountain. You would think, oh, that is a simple majority. It should be done. But the Senate operates on interesting rules. They have to have 60. We have 22 who have never taken a position, either ``yes'' or ``no'' or any public statement. Some of these have served 5 1/2 years. It's pretty amazing that we have such an important issue pending as this, and the Senate has yet to get on record. If only five of these 22 would say ``yes,'' we could continue to move forward on addressing our nuclear waste issues.

Now, nuclear waste is not just spent nuclear fuel. It's World War II defense waste that might be in Hanford, Washington. It could be scientific waste that might be in Idaho or in Tennessee. And especially after Fukushima Daiichi and the Blue Ribbon Commission, we have to have a single long-term geological repository.

We've gone on record in the House. We passed a law that said it should be Yucca Mountain in Nevada. It's time for the Senators to get past their leadership and do what's in the best interest of this country and their own individual States.

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