WASHINGTON—The nuclear energy industry hailed President Bush’s signing today of a resolution approving Yucca Mountain, Nev., for development as a nuclear waste disposal facility.
“This is a historic day for the United States, for environmental protection and for U.S. energy security,” Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Joe F. Colvin said. “The approval of Yucca Mountain as a suitable site to safely isolate used nuclear fuel and defense waste is another case in which the United States is setting the pace worldwide in nuclear technologies. No other country has advanced its nuclear waste management program as far as we have. Our environment and our national security will be the better for it.
“The nuclear energy industry salutes President Bush and the U.S. Congress for their leadership in helping to shape a comprehensive, long-term energy strategy that encompasses safe disposal of used nuclear material and allows our society to take maximum advantage of nuclear energy in the decades to come.”
The White House announced earlier today that President Bush signed H.J. Res. 87, the resolution approving Yucca Mountain as a permanent underground disposal facility for used nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs. Used nuclear fuel is the byproduct of the electricity production process that supplies electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.
Approval of the site allows the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare and submit a license application for the used fuel disposal facility to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a step currently scheduled to take place in late 2004.
Mere hours before President Bush signed H.J. Res. 87, the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee earmarked only $336 million for the federal government’s nuclear waste management program for fiscal year 2003. The appropriation is less than two-thirds of the budget requested by DOE to move the program ahead.
The earmark utilizes $280 million of Defense Department nuclear waste disposal monies and only $56 million from the Nuclear Waste Fund. It is $191 million less than the Administration requested for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. It is also $39 million less than the nuclear waste management appropriation for the current fiscal year.
The appropriations subcommittee is chaired by Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada, who vowed on the heels of the Senate’s approval of Yucca Mountain on July 9 to continue fighting the project.
“Senator Reid’s obstructionism in cutting funds for the Yucca Mountain project flies in the face of the will of the American people as manifested in Congress’s approval of the Yucca Mountain site,” said NEI Senior Vice President John Kane.
Kane said the subcommittee’s earmark of $56 million from the federal Nuclear Waste Fund—which receives approximately $750 million a year from consumers of nuclear-generated electricity—is tantamount to a “rip-off” of electricity ratepayers.
“To use only seven cents on the dollar for Yucca Mountain and divert the rest of the money that has been committed to support this specific program for other budget items, as Senator Reid seeks to do after our elected representatives have already decided to press on with Yucca Mountain, constitutes an unwarranted taking of consumers’ money,” Kane said.
“The federal government’s nuclear waste management program already is years behind schedule. By denying the program full funding when key licensing steps must be taken, Senator Reid is putting his personal agenda ahead of the national interest. This funding must be restored,” he said.
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.