WASHINGTON—Several of the nation's governors are urging congressional leaders to follow expedited procedures provided by law for consideration of a resolution to move forward with licensing an underground repository for used nuclear fuel in the Nevada desert.
"We urge you to follow the privileged process set forth in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and move forward on a national waste repository as soon as possible," the governors wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Govs. Don Sundquist (Tenn.), Angus King (Maine), Jim Hodges (S.C.) and John Rowland (Conn.) signed the April 9 letter.
President Bush recommended the Yucca Mountain site in February, but provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act permit the state of Nevada to object to the site designation. The state filed its objection with Congress on April 8, setting the stage for congressional action to overturn or sustain the state's disapproval.
"As governors, we are concerned about the safe disposal of radioactive waste and we support this decision" to build a federal repository at Yucca Mountain, the four governors wrote in their April 9 letter. "The DOE, U.S. Geological Survey, national laboratories, universities nationwide and scientists and engineers from 10 other nations have provided more than 36 million hours of labor to predict the performance of a Yucca Mountain repository...the scientific evidence supports the recommendation."
The federal government has a legal obligation to dispose of high-level radioactive waste now stored in 39 states from U.S. Navy submarines, aircraft carriers and other defense programs as well as reactor fuel from the 103 commercial nuclear power plants that supply electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses. "Delays have put the project behind schedule and Congress must act now to meet this critical need," the governors wrote.
Earlier this month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond signed a letter on behalf of governors from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont urging members of Congress from those states to support the Yucca Mountain project. The governors wrote that they "understand that amendments and procedural delays can interfere with the time action required (90 legislative calendar days for congressional action) by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and therefore we ask that you vote in a manner to avoid amendments and procedural delays."
The six New England leaders, in their April 1 letter, cautioned that "transportation of nuclear fuel must not become a reason for not selecting Yucca Mountain. Transportation must be accomplished with care and planning. But we are aware that non-commercial spent fuel and nuclear weapons materials currently move routinely through the U.S. The alternative of indefinite storage at our New England sites is not an acceptable policy solution."
Thirteen governors-6 Democrats, 6 Republicans and an Independent-sent letters to President Bush and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham last year recommending that the federal government designate Yucca Mountain as a repository site.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org .