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Yucca Mountain and Scientific Integrity

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, there's good news in our pursuit of a repository to hold our Nation's spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, although it went largely unreported.

Officials from both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have publicly admitted that neither agency has identified any technical issues that would prevent us from being able to develop a safe repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. This admission came during a recent hearing before the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee in response to a question from my friend and colleague, Mr. Frelinghuysen, the subcommittee chairman.

To stakeholders in the nuclear waste debate, this fact should come as no surprise. Why else would Greg Jaczko, Senator Reid's former staffer, abuse his authority as NRC chairman and deceive his Commission colleagues to scuttle publication of the agency's safety review?

If Yucca Mountain were as scientifically flawed as Senator Reid says it is, then he would have benefited by having the agency's conclusions released publicly. Instead, Senator Reid got a promise from President Obama to shut down the program.

President Obama obliged, with no basis other than the cryptic statements about Yucca Mountain being ``unworkable.'' Meanwhile, Senator Reid's protege, Mr. Jaczko, made sure the NRC's independent technical conclusions never saw the light of day.

These actions have been challenged in court. The State attorneys general for both Washington and South Carolina, together with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Aiken County, South Carolina, and Nye County, Nevada, have all alleged that the NRC has violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by ceasing its review of the Yucca Mountain license application, which is mandated under the law. The case is currently before the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

When President Obama took office, he said that this administration would ``restore scientific integrity in government decisionmaking.''

Shortly after taking office, he issued a Presidential Memorandum stating:

Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.

Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure, each agency should make available to the public the scientific and technical findings or conclusions considered or relied upon in policy decisions.

The public must be confident that public officials will not conceal or distort the scientific findings that are relevant to policy choices.

He reaffirmed these statements recently when addressing the National Academies of Science:

In all the sciences, we've got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they're not subject to politics, that they're not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us.

Mr. Speaker, I find it very difficult to reconcile these pronouncements with the Yucca Mountain situation as it stands today. Electricity consumers and taxpayers have invested $15 billion to find a safe disposal site for our Nation's civilian spent fuel and the nuclear waste left over from the Cold War. After investing 30 years and $15 billion in Yucca Mountain, they deserve, at a minimum, for the independent nuclear safety regulator, the NRC, to release its conclusions on whether the site is safe or not.

Given the admissions from these DOE and NRC officials, it appears we have found a safe solution to our Nation's nuclear waste problem: Yucca Mountain. The bad news is that this administration would rather play politics than solve the problem. Transparency and scientific integrity should not be debased into political buzz words easily cast aside for the sake of political favors.

Mr. Speaker, the American people deserve better. They deserve to know the truth about Yucca Mountain. It's outrageous that they must go to court to get it.

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