WASHINGTON—The following is a statement by the Nuclear Energy Institute's president and chief executive officer, Joe Colvin, in response to the U.S. Senate's vote today to earmark only $275 million for fiscal year 2002 for the federal government's nuclear waste management program. The Senate vote was in line with the funding level set last week in the Appropriations Committee's Energy and Water Development Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. The U.S. House of Representatives in late June approved $443 million in FY02 funding for the program, which is receiving $401 million in the current fiscal year.
Prior to passing H.R. 2311, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2002, the Senate included a "sense of the Senate" resolution in the manager's amendment stating that the Yucca Mountain project should be funded at a level that ensures that a determination on the disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste can be concluded in accordance with the statutorily mandated process.
"The Senate's drastic reduction in funding threatens the viability of the program just as scientists are ready to determine whether the site is suitable for one of the nation's most important environmental projects.
Clearly, the Senate's slashing of funds for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs is not in the national interest. It is disconcerting that such a funding shortfall comes at a time when the Energy Department's scientific analysis of Yucca Mountain's suitability as a repository is nearly complete, and when nuclear energy's importance as an indispensable component of our nation's energy mix is being broadly recognized.
"Despite the appropriations bill's sharp reduction in funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, the nuclear energy industry is encouraged that the Senate-by explicit resolution-recognized the need for the government's investment in the project to continue at a level that will not jeopardize the program.
"This action by the Senate is compounded by by the fact that the Yucca Mountain funding includes only $25 million from the federal Nuclear Waste Fund, which Congress established solely to fund this program. Record electricity production at nuclear power plants in 2000 resulted in approximately $750 million in payments from consumers into the special fund. Not using $725 million of that money for the purpose for which it is intended is an unwarranted taking of consumers' money. "As recently as May 5th, Senator Reid was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal as saying of the Yucca Mountain project, 'We will continue to fight for fair and accurate science and responsible decision-making.' The industry agrees with Senator Reid on that count. This program needs to be funded to the budget request level in order to produce the best scientific decision-making."
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 .