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The Department of Energy's FY14 Budget Proposal on Nuclear Waste

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the Department of Energy's budget proposal on nuclear waste. It's a joke--but as a representative of nuclear electricity consumers and taxpayers, I don't find it funny.

DOE Assistant Secretary Peter Lyons says we should ``cut our losses and move on'' from Yucca Mountain. We've spent $15 billion on Yucca Mountain, but this administration says we should just give up and go try somewhere else, hoping some other State will be a willing host. The DOE budget proposes spending $5.6 billion over the next 10 years to start over and maybe, just maybe, have a permanent repository by 2048.

The details provided for this new plan are scant to say the least--14 pages. DOE proposes to abandon $15 billion and 30 years of work, start over, create a new government entity to be responsible, and find willing States to host two interim storage facilities and a repository--all within 14 pages. I consider it brainstorming, not a plan. It's certainly not something that justifies $5.6 billion. In addition, DOE has repeatedly stated the need for Congress to pass legislation, but has yet to propose any. That shows the administration is not trying to solve this problem, just avoid it by pointing the finger at Congress.

Nuclear electricity consumers pay for a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel. What would they get after spending another 10 years and $5.6 billion? A pilot interim storage facility with limited capacity.

A pilot facility? Dry cask storage, the same technology that will be used at the interim storage facility, is currently used at 65 locations. As for transportation, the U.S. nuclear industry has completed 3,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel over 1.7 million miles of roads and railroads. What's the purpose of having a pilot facility?

The only other pilot facility is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. I've been there, and it's an impressive facility. But that pilot project became a permanent facility with a 10,000-year environmental standard. Given that backdrop, does DOE really think some unsuspecting State will actually fall for the idea that a pilot interim storage facility will truly be temporary?

But $5.6 billion doesn't begin to address the real costs hidden in this proposal. Instead of merely paying for a repository, nuclear electricity consumers will now have to write off the cost of abandoning the Yucca Mountain site where we've spent $15 billion. DOE's previous estimates for transportation were $19 billion; so if DOE is now going to have to transport it twice, once to an interim storage and then later to a repository, ratepayers will be on the hook for an extra $19 billion. All this, plus the $5.6 billion in the budget, equals $39.6 billion.

And that's just the bill for nuclear electricity consumers. Taxpayers will continue to pay for the liability costs of DOE's failure to provide disposal. That cost is $2.6 billion so far and projected to be $20 billion by 2020. The Government Accountability Office tells us that it's faster to finish Yucca Mountain than to start over with interim storage. Yet this administration prefers to start over, disregarding the cost to the taxpayer.

Electricity consumers and taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for President Obama's campaign promise to Harry Reid, certainly not $39.6 billion worth. Mr. Speaker, DOE's proposal is a boondoggle at a time when our citizens can least afford it. I, for one, am not laughing.

Mr. Speaker, as we remember the tragic events of yesterday, we are reminded that there is sin and evil in the world. We pray for Boston, our country, and the world, but the business of the Republic must go on.

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