[Congressional Record Volume 148, Number 57 (Wednesday, May 8, 2002)]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
YUCCA MOUNTAIN REPOSITORY SITE APPROVAL ACT
Mr. TAUZIN. Madam Speaker, pursuant to section 115(e)(4) of the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, I call up the joint resolution (H.J.
Res. 87) approving the site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for the
development of a repository for the disposal of high-level radioactive
waste and spent nuclear fuel, pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Clerk will report the joint resolution.
The Clerk read the joint resolution, as follows:
H.J. Res. 87
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, That there
hereby is approved the site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for a
repository, with respect to which a notice of disapproval was
submitted by the Governor of the State of Nevada on April 8,
Unfunded Mandates Point of Order
Mr. GIBBONS. Madam Speaker, I rise to make a point of order against
consideration of H.J. Res. 87.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will state his point of order.
Mr. GIBBONS. Madam Speaker, pursuant to section 425 of the
Congressional Budget Act and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, I make a
point of order against consideration of H.J. Res. 87.
Section 425 states that a point of order lies against legislation
which either imposes an unfunded mandate in excess of $58 million
against State and local governments or when the committee chairman does
not publish, prior to floor consideration, a CBO cost mandate of any
unfunded mandate in excess of $58 million against State and local
H.J. Res. 87 will in effect set the Nuclear Waste Policy Act as
amended in 1987 into action. The bill reads in part, ``Resolved by the
Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in
Congress assembled, that there hereby is approved the site at Yucca
Mountain, Nevada for a repository.''
In other words, Madam Speaker, passage of this resolution will green-
light the Yucca Mountain project, thus allowing for shipment of high
level nuclear waste beginning in the year 2010 and continuing for the
next 38 years. Thus, passage of H.J. Res. 87 clearly places an unfunded
mandate on our taxpayers.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons)
makes a point of order that the joint resolution violates section
425(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
In accordance with section 426(b)(2) of the Act, the gentleman has
met his threshold burden to identify the specific language in the joint
resolution on which he predicates the point of order.
Under section 426(b)(4) of the Act, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr.
Gibbons) and a Member opposed each will control 10 minutes of debate on
the question of consideration.
Pursuant to section 426(b)(3) of the Act, after that debate the Chair
will put the question of consideration, to wit: ``Will the House now
consider the joint resolution?"
The gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons) will be recognized for 10
minutes and the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin) will be
recognized for 10 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons).
Mr. GIBBONS. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may
Madam Speaker, passage of H.J. Res. 87 will undoubtedly put a process
in place that will exceed the $58 million threshold outlined in section
425 of the act. Instead of looking at what the CBO score tells us, let
us look at what it does not tell us. What the CBO is unable to tell us
is how much it will cost our local community to implement the Nuclear
Waste Management Act, as far as preparing our State and local
governments for the enormous cost of safety monitoring these tens of
thousands of high level nuclear waste shipments that are going to occur
throughout our community.
Madam Speaker, by the CBO's inability to score the total cost of this
project, again a project receives a green light upon passage of the
legislation currently before us, there might as well not even be a CBO
score. The chairman of the committee has fulfilled his obligation to
publish a cost estimate for H.J. Res. 87; however, the CBO cost only
gives the House the recommended 5-year cost projection. As we know,
under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, shipments of high level nuclear
waste to Nevada will not even begin until the year 2010, about 8 years
from now. With the CBO unable to give a cost estimate on the Yucca
Mountain project's total price tag, passage of H.J. Res. 87 provides
the Federal government a blank check to proceed with this project.
In the end, the Federal Government will demand that our State and
local governments spend billions of dollars over the next four decades
to prepare for those shipments that will traverse their respective
States and districts. Neither the Department of Energy nor Congress has
anticipated or provided for the massive costs that will be incurred by
States and local governments if we pass this legislation.
The paltry $17 million budgeted by the Department of Energy in its
fiscal year 2003 budget will not come close to covering these costs.
States and local governments will be left with billions of dollars in
unfunded expenses which would not be incurred except for the Federal
high level radioactive waste program. Some may counter this argument by
saying that we can recommend on the Nuclear Waste Fund, established by
Congress, to pay for the cost of Yucca Mountain.
Well, consider this argument: Current estimates put the Nuclear Waste
Fund at about $17 billion. That balance pales in the comparison to the
total construction and compliance costs at Yucca Mountain of almost $60
What is more, the nuclear power industry faces an uncertain economic
future. Let me point out a few of the problems facing the industry. The
industry is supposed to be responsible for paying the costs associated
with the nuclear waste disposal. No nuclear power plants have been
built since 1978. More than 100 reactors have been canceled, including
all ordered after 1973. The nuclear power industry's troubles include
nuclear high power plant construction costs, relatively low costs for
competing fuel, public concern about nuclear safety and waste disposal,
as well as regulatory compliance costs.
Electric utility restructuring, which is currently under way in
several States, could also increase the competition faced by existing
High operating costs have resulted during the past decades in the
shutdown of nearly 20 U.S. commercial reactors before the completion of
their 40-year license operating period.
Madam Speaker, the viability of the Nuclear Waste Fund is directly
related to the continued viability of the nuclear utility industry.
Taxpayers are not supposed to fund the program. The program is supposed
to be funded by the nuclear energy industry and the ratepayers who
purchase and benefit from their electricity.
The price tag of this project will be tremendous. Not in the next 5
years, as outlined by the CBO score, but in 8 years, and the subsequent
4 decades beyond that.
Madam Speaker, 8 years from now the Department of Energy will begin
filling your roads and highways and railways with high level nuclear
waste. The cost to even begin preparing our first responders will be
staggering, let alone the cost of any clean-up associated with one of
400 accidents the Department of Energy tells us that we are to prepare
for when they begin these shipments.
I ask that delegates call their State governors and ask does room
exist in their budget to meet these needs and these expensive costs?
Ask your local
county commissioners can they afford the increased costs of protecting
these shipments? Ask city council members in your district will they
have room to budget in their budget for these increased costs? Ask your
local fire fighters, police officers, State troopers, your emergency
response teams, EMTs and haz-mat crews, will they be able to afford
Again, the DOE tells us that accidents happen. This is not spilled
milk. An accident involving shipments of high level nuclear waste
requires more than a mop and bucket of water to clean up. Imagine the
cost of the training just to prepare for a potential response to one of
Madam Speaker, H.J. Res. 87 is an unfunded mandate. The CBO cannot
tell us whether or not carrying out the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by
passing this resolution will exceed the $58 million threshold. And
because CBO cannot give us this information, we must assume that the
threshold can and will be exceeded.
Now some tell us not to worry, that DOE and Congress will ensure the
necessary funding will be provided at the right time. If this is the
case, Madam Speaker, where are we going to get the money? What programs
will have to be cut to pay for this irresponsible policy? Will we cut
the Department of Defense budget as we carry out this long, protracted
war against terrorism? Will we cut out Medicare or any possibility of
implementing a prescription drug benefit for our seniors? Or will we
allow ourselves to drive the Social Security trust fund at the same
time our baby boomer generation sits on the brink of retirement?
Assuming the DOE begins shipment in 2010 as planned, Congress would
have to budget $3.6 billion per year beginning with this year's budget
in order to provide adequate funding for States. The fact is, Madam
Speaker, as with every other issue we debate in this body, the money
has to come from somewhere and somewhere always leads to the taxpayers
in this great country.
Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against this unfunded
mandate and support the point of order I just made.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin)
opposed to the point of order?
Mr. TAUZIN. Yes, Madam Speaker, I am.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from
Louisiana for 10 minutes.
Mr. TAUZIN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in strong opposition to this effort to block consideration of
this very bipartisan consideration.
Madam Speaker, I know the gentleman well and he is my friend and I
know his intentions are good. He is doing everything that he thinks is
in the best interest of his State. And I think we all can respect that.
But, very frankly, this point of order is completely without foundation
and it is clearly just an effort to obstruct consideration of House
Joint Resolution 87, a resolution that was reported out of the
Committee on Energy and Commerce by a vote of 41 to 6, an incredibly
When my committee filed its report on House Joint Resolution 87, it
included a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. This is
it here. And the Congressional Budget Office report literally satisfies
one of the requirements under the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act. This CBO
cost estimate thoroughly reviewed the budget impacts of this
resolution, and it did not identify any new mandates in this resolution
that would fall under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
The CBO cost estimate, in fact, further clarified that even if some
minor costs of State and local governments did fall under the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act, these costs would not exceed the thresholds
established under UMRA.
Let me quote from the CBO estimate directly: ``H.J. Res. 87 could
increase the costs that Nevada and some local governments would incur
to comply with certain existing Federal requirements. The Unfunded
Mandate Reform Act, UMRA, is unclear about whether such costs would
count as new mandates under UMRA. In any event, CBO estimates that the
annual direct costs incurred by State and local governments over the
next 5 years would total significantly less than the threshold
established in the law ($58 million in 2002, adjusted annually for
In other words, CBO is saying we are not sure we even count those
costs; but if we did, they do not meet the threshold of the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act.
Finally, CBO notes that H.J. Res. 87 contains no new private sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Madam Speaker,
the CBO report speaks for itself. It is very, very clear.
We may hear that the real costs that should be considered are those
that occur after the 5-year period that CBO has looked at. Well, for
better or worse, whether we like it or not, whether we think the law
ought to be different, our rules only require CBO to look at 5 years
and not into the indefinite future; and what CBO has told us in this
report is that there are simply no costs that cross the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act limits, the thresholds for those 5 years.
The law is satisfied. Our rules are satisfied. We ought to proceed
with the consideration of this important resolution.
The Chair will put the question when this debate is over on this
point of order, and the question will be whether we should proceed or
not. I will ask all Members who support this resolution to vote
``yes.'' We should proceed because this point of order is completely
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GIBBONS. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may
I will remind my good friend and colleague, the chairman of the
committee, that shipments will not begin until 8 years from today, not
the 5 years as recommended in the CBO score.
Madam Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentlewoman from
Nevada (Ms. Berkley).
Ms. BERKLEY. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Nevada (Mr.
Gibbons) for yielding me the time.
I find it very ironic that this Congress is willing to put nuclear
waste in a hole in the Nevada desert for 10,000 years, yet we are
talking about a 5-year unfunded mandate.
I rise in strong support of the gentleman's point of order. It is bad
enough that we are set to vote on a resolution that will approve the
Yucca Mountain project that has costs ranging from $56 billion to $308
billion. Nobody knows exactly how much this project will cost. This
money is supposed to come from the nuclear waste fund, but the fund
only has $17 billion in it. Where is the rest of this money going to
come from? Are the proponents of this foolhardy project proposing to
raise taxes, dip into the Social Security trust fund? This proposal
only gets worse.
If we approve Yucca Mountain, more than 108,000 shipments of deadly
nuclear waste will be rolling across our Nation's highways and
railroads, through 43 States for the next 38 years on its way to Yucca
Mountain. As it passes through each of the 703 counties along the
proposed transportation routes, local law enforcement and first
responders must be prepared for the worst. And if the worst happens,
where is the money going to come from to clean up the mess, the
destruction, the devastation?
I see no provision in the budget to cover these enormous costs. This
is an unfunded mandate to our local governments. We know from the DOE's
own assessment that we can expect anywhere from 50 to over 300
accidents. Our firefighters and first responders must be specially
trained to deal with these nuclear waste shipments and the accidents
that will occur.
The nuclear waste fund does not have the money to pay for this, so
the unknown costs are going to have to be made up by local government
and the American taxpayers. We will be asking citizens who have no part
in creating nuclear waste and have no benefits from nuclear energy to
fund the nuclear industry so they can move dangerous nuclear waste
through their own backyards.
If we approve this resolution, the American taxpayer will once again
asked to foot the bill for nuclear energy. There is not enough money in
the nuclear waste fund to cover the costs. So sometime in the next 10
years we will be either cutting corners when it comes to safety,
raising taxes, or raiding Social Security.
None of these alternatives are acceptable to me, and I doubt outside
the nuclear industry and the nuclear industry's friends here in the
United States Congress that these alternatives would not be acceptable
to anyone else in our country.
Yucca Mountain is a financial boondoggle that flies in the face of
fiscal responsibility. I urge my colleagues to support this point of
Mr. TAUZIN. Madam Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton), the chairman of the Subcommittee on
Energy and Air Quality.
(Mr. BARTON of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and
extend his remarks.)
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from
Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin) for yielding me the time.
Obviously, I rise against this point of order of my good friend from
Nevada. I am shocked, shocked and amazed, that he would think that the
gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Boucher) and I would present a bill on the
floor that had an unfunded mandate.
I am one of the most conservative Members of this body, and I am
joined by one of the most distinguished conservative Members, he would
say moderate, progressive, Members on the other side of the aisle; and
for us to bring forward an unfunded, an unfunded mandate is just beyond
I would point out that since we passed a Nuclear Waste Policy Act in
1982, we have collected over $15 billion in the nuclear waste fund.
Every time a nuclear plant generates a kilowatt of electricity, one
mil, which is \1/10\ of a cent, goes into this fund; and we are
collecting about $750 million a year as we speak into this fund. So
this is far from being an unfunded mandate. This is the most
overfunded, unmet, unobligated, unconstructed thing that we could have
ever done in Federal Government.
I would also point out, as my good friend, the full committee
chairman, has already pointed out, that when we passed this resolution
on a bipartisan basis out of the committee, we sent it to the
Congressional Budget Office; and they have given us the requisite
report that the chairman has a copy of that says quite clearly that the
costs of this for the next 5 years are well under the threshold of the
Unfunded Mandate Act.
There are a number of reasons for people to be opposed to the
underlying resolution. My good friend from Nevada is certainly entitled
to oppose it, but there is no reason to support the point of order that
it is an unfunded mandate. Nothing, Madam Speaker, could be further
from the truth.
When it comes to the end of the debate, I certainly hope that the
Speaker will throw out this scurrilous point of order so that we can
get on with the debate, have a debate on the underlying bill and then
hopefully support the underlying bill that the gentleman from Virginia
(Mr. Boucher) and myself have put to the body.
Mr. TAUZIN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the remaining time and ask
that we put the question with the request that all Members who support
this resolution vote ``yes'' when the Speaker puts the question.
Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mrs. Biggert). The question is: Will the
House now consider House Joint Resolution 87.
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that
the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. GIBBONS. Madam Speaker, I object to the vote on the ground that a
quorum is not present and make the point of order that a quorum is not
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Evidently a quorum is not present.
The Sergeant at Arms will notify absent Members.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 308,
nays 105, not voting 21, as follows:
[Roll No. 132]
Davis, Jo Ann
Johnson, E. B.
Messrs. McNULTY, GALLEGLY, KUCINICH, INSLEE, UDALL of Colorado,
STARK, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, and Mrs. KELLY changed their vote from
``yea'' to ``nay.''
Messrs. CALVERT, HINOJOSA, and HERGER changed their vote from ``nay''
So the question of consideration was decided in the affirmative.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
Request to Table H.J. Res. 87
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that H.J. Res. 87,
the Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act, be tabled.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Hastings of Washington). Is there
objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Nevada?
Mr. TAUZIN. Reserving the right to object, Mr. Speaker, I yield to
the gentlewoman under my reservation to explain her unanimous consent
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, the General Accounting Office, the
independent investigative arm of Congress, recently recommended that
the Yucca Mountain project not be approved at this time. The GAO
recommended that the government solve 293 outstanding scientific
problems before the project be approved. After careful examination of
these scientific problems, the GAO estimated that the Department of
Energy would need at least 4 more years, until 2006, to resolve these
problems. The report concluded, ``We question the prudence and
practicality of making such a recommendation at this time given the
express statutory time frames for a license application and the
significant amount of work remaining to be done.''
In addition, there are still enormous and serious questions regarding
the transportation of nuclear waste. The casks that will transport the
waste have not yet even been created, and no cask has been tested full
scale. In light of 9/11, several government agencies have begun a
review of the safety and security of nuclear waste transport. The
result of these reviews is not yet complete. It is clear that we are
moving ahead on this resolution prematurely. It is not in the best
interest of the public, and it does not reflect sound public policy.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the Yucca Mountain
Repository Site Approval Act be tabled until 2006 when the scientific
studies are completed.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I insist on my objection.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Objection is heard.
Pursuant to section 15(e)(4) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982,
the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin) and a Member opposed each
will control 1 hour.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I claim the time in opposition.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman opposed?
Mr. MARKEY. Yes, Mr. Speaker.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Massachusetts will
control 1 hour.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin) for 1
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, today the Chair will consider one of the most important
public health and safety issues facing the Nation, the development of a
centralized and permanent geologic disposal site for our country's
nuclear waste, wastes that are laying around all over the country in
temporary storage at nuclear facilities.
At present, high level nuclear wastes are stored in 77 sites in more
than 30 States in every region of the country. Most of these waste
sites are located near a nuclear power plant where spent nuclear fuel
is carefully stored, and nuclear waste storage sites are also located
at former DOE weapons production facilities like the Hanford site,
where liquid radioactive waste is stored in tanks.
Every one of these waste sites shares one common aspect: They were
all designed for temporary storage of these dangerous wastes, not for
The Yucca Mountain site is located 90 miles away from Las Vegas. It
is isolated on remote Federal land of the Nevada test site, 14 miles
away from the closest residence, and it is safe and secure. The waste
will be stored more than 600 feet underground, and more than 500 feet
above the water table. The waste will be held in steel containers, and
the containers will be placed under a titanium shield.
Further, not only is the air space around Yucca already restricted,
but an existing security force at the Nevada test site will protect the
area. This is a comprehensive defense-in-depth approach.
The Committee on Energy and Commerce held an exhaustive hearing on
this issue last month. We heard from witnesses representing all sides
of the Yucca Mountain debate, including scientists, politicians,
regulators, and public interest groups. Not a single witness identified
a significant scientific or technical reason not to move forward with
this important project.
They also gave me an opportunity to clarify some of the concerns
frequently expressed by the opponents of the Yucca Mountain site, and
the hearing was very good for that purpose. For example, opponents of
Yucca Mountain want us to stop this important project because the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission has identified certain unresolved
technical issues. However, the NRC had testified and the DOE has agreed
that the DOE is on a path toward resolving every single one of those
technical issues, and the Secretary of Energy committed to answer every
one before licensing is possibly complete or approved. In fact, 60 of
those issues should be resolved this year.
Further, the NRC will not approve the construction license for Yucca
Mountain unless every single one of those issues are thoroughly and
properly addressed. The opponents of Yucca Mountain will argue that we
should stop the project because the Nuclear Waste Technical Review
Board believes the science of Yucca Mountain is weak to moderate.
However, at the hearing the board pointed out that no individual
technical issue would automatically eliminate Yucca Mountain. The
Nuclear Waste Board also testified that confidence in DOE science
estimates can be increased.
I understand that this issue is of great concern to the elected
leaders of Nevada, and I sympathize with their plight. I hope that the
debate today can focus on a discussion of the facts rather than an
effort to manufacture unrealistic and implausible fears in the minds of
the public regarding this project.
A vote in favor of H.J. Res. 87 will simply move the Yucca Mountain
project forward to the next stage of review; but even with
congressional approval of this resolution today, construction will not
proceed at Yucca Mountain unless it passes strict health and safety
requirements set up by EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
On February 15, 2002, the President recommended on the advice of DOE
Secretary Spencer Abraham that Congress approve the Yucca Mountain site
even if the State of Nevada disapproves. Based upon our review and
understanding of DOE's extensive scientific work, I am prepared to
support this important policy decision, and I hope Members do, too.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton), the
chairman of the subcommittee, for his extraordinary work on this, and
the ranking member, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Boucher) for their
cooperation, and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell) for his
support for our effort. I want all Members of this House to know this
bill came out of our committee by a 41-6 bipartisan vote. It is
sponsored and cosponsored in a bipartisan way. It is supported in a
This is the right thing for America. And we stand as Americans united
to get this important resolution passed so that we can set our nuclear
industry back on a current safe path; and, indeed, make room for future
improvements in the nuclear industry in this country, as well as the
environmental cleanup of sites that demand early rather than late
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to yield 20 minutes to the
gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Boucher), the ranking member of the
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality for purposes of control.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the
gentleman from Louisiana?
There was no objection.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 4 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, this is a historic occasion. Twenty years ago on this
floor we passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. In that bill there was a
decision made by Congress that there would be 5 geologic repositories
that would be studied, and ultimately 2 would be selected, 1 on the
east of the Mississippi and 1 to the west of the Mississippi.
But between 1982 and 1987, two factors raised their heads: One,
parochialism. The States of Texas, of Washington, of Louisiana, of
Tennessee, of New Hampshire, in other words, all of the States that
were being considered that had powerful political delegations, said
take our States off the list. And the search was begun by this body to
find one State that had just two Members of Congress and two Senators
because that is the way ultimately in 1987 when the Congress revisited
the issue that it was resolved; not on scientific grounds, not on the
basis of finding the best geologic repositories east and west of the
Mississippi, but rather selecting the smallest State with the smallest
number of elected representatives, and that turns out to be the State
of Nevada, which was delivered the nuclear queen of spades by every
other State that did not want it in their State.
Now, what happens? Well, then ultimately any Member who opposes
science being trumped by politics is called anti-nuclear by the States
that do not want it in their States, even though in most of those
States they have nuclear power plants. We wind up in this Alice-in-
Wonderland debate where the poor State of Nevada is here now raising
the point that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has identified the
fact that there are still 293 unresolved environmental health and
safety issues, and asking the Congress and asking the administration to
wait until those issues are resolved until any movement forward is made
on the issue.
But because of a second major issue, special interest, that is the
nuclear power industry, the Congress, as they did in 1982, as they did
in 1987, says no, we cannot wait. We must now continue forward. It is
this indifference to the very legitimate concerns that are being raised
by the State of Nevada which should be most troubling to Members here
The nuclear power industry may want this. Other States that could
have been considered for the repository, and might have been better
long term 10,000-year locations for the waste, may want this. States
that have 6 or 8 nuclear reactors in them but do not want the nuclear
repository and want the waste out of their State may want this, but it
is wrong for us to move forward today when we can move forward next
year or the year after if the 293 environmental health and safety
questions have not been resolved, because the decision we make today
creates an inexorable pressure on investments already made, decisions
already made that will buy us those environmental health and safety
decisions over the next 2 and 3 years, and ultimately bad decisions
will be made that will compromise the environment.
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
(Mr. BOUCHER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the pending measure
and urge its approval by the House. The legislation takes the next
necessary step in a statutorily prescribed process for establishing a
site for the permanent disposal of high level nuclear waste. I want to
begin these remarks by commending Chairman Tauzin of the full Committee
on Energy and Commerce, subcommittee Chairman Barton, and also the
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell), the ranking member of our full
committee, for their diligence and their persistence in taking this
necessary step. I am a cosponsor with them of the legislation which is
pending that will move the process forward.
A permanent secure site for the disposal of high level waste must be
established. Forty-five thousand metric tons of waste now reside on-
site at nuclear reactors in 72 locations across the Nation. This
temporary siting of spent fuel at reactor sites poses both a security
threat and an environmental threat. In my view, arguments that
previously had been made that the permanent disposal of waste in dry
cask storage at these 72 reactor sites as an alternative to the
establishment of a secure central repository for the waste hold far
less credence today after September 11 than they did before. I think we
really have no alternative to the development of a central, secure
disposal site. The passage of the measure that is now before the House
is essential to the development of that site.
While arguments will be made that more could be learned about the
proposed Yucca Mountain site, I would note that the recommendation of
the Secretary of Energy in January of this year that Yucca Mountain be
chosen for permanent waste disposal is based on fully 20 years of
scientific investigation. The site characterization work required under
section 113 of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act has been carried out. The
public hearings focusing on the Yucca Mountain site required by section
114 of the act have been held. If Congress passes the legislation now
pending before the House, which overrides the disapproval of the
President's site designation that was issued by Governor Guinn of
Nevada on April 8, construction activities could not commence at the
site until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completes a full technical
and scientific review of the site and also a review of the proposed
disposal methods at the site and then issues a license for site
No site will ever be found to be perfect for the disposal of high
level nuclear waste, but I am persuaded that the studies which have
already been conducted and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission review
that is still to come provides sufficient assurances that the
appropriate nature of the Yucca Mountain site has been established and
will justify approval of the legislation now before us.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to take this opportunity to note that the
Committee on Energy and Commerce has a long tradition of addressing
many of our Nation's most important public policy challenges in a
thoughtful and a bipartisan manner. With the Subcommittee on Energy and
Air Quality having approved this resolution by a vote of 24-2 and the
full Committee on Energy and Commerce having approved it by a majority
of 41-6, nowhere has our committee's bipartisan tradition and
cooperation been more in evidence than in our efforts to resolve the
Nation's nuclear waste disposal problems. For that bipartisan
cooperation, I again want to commend the committee's leadership on both
sides of the aisle for moving expeditiously on this matter.
Mr. Speaker, I urge approval of this resolution by the House.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 7 minutes to the gentlewoman from
Nevada (Ms. Berkley).
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, let me begin by expressing the outrage felt
throughout Nevada about this ill-advised proposal. Eighty-three percent
of the people I represent vehemently oppose Yucca Mountain. Nevada does
not use nuclear energy. Nevada does not produce one ounce of nuclear
waste. Yet Nevada is being asked to carry the weight of a burden we
have had no part in creating.
I grew up in Las Vegas. Long before I came to serve in Congress, I
have been fighting against this proposal to transport 77,000 tons of
toxic nuclear waste across 43 States to be stored for 10,000 years in a
hole in the Nevada desert.
The original Nuclear Waste Policy Act charged the Department of
Energy with the task of studying multiple potential repository sites to
determine which would be the best to provide geologic containment of
But in 1987, without the benefit of any completed scientific study,
Congress passed the so-called ``Screw Nevada'' bill which made the most
political of decisions. It singled out Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the
only site to be studied. There was no science, there was no reason,
except that Nevada was a small State with a small congressional
Almost immediately, it became apparent that Yucca Mountain could not
contain the waste by natural geologic barriers as required by law, so
the DOE simply changed the rules. The waste would be stored in man-made
canisters for 10,000 years. Then it was discovered that those canisters
would quickly corrode, so they added titanium drip shields. Even with
all of these man-made barriers, there still had to be gerrymandering
groundwater regulations to set up contamination zones.
We have deviated so far from the original intent of the proposal. We
have allowed the DOE and the EPA to set standards that endanger the
environment and human health. Yet no one seems to be willing to pull
the plug on this foolhardy idea.
This Nation has a serious waste problem. Every year our reactors
create 2,000 tons of toxic nuclear waste. The only method of disposal
this country has ever seriously studied is shipping the waste across
the country and dumping it 90 miles outside of my hometown of Las
Vegas, the fastest growing city in the country.
But there are major problems with this plan. A central repository
would not mean, let me emphasize, not mean that reactor sites around
the country would be cleaned out. That is a myth. According to the
government's shipping plans, in the year 2036, when Yucca Mountain is
filled to capacity, there would still be 44,000 tons of nuclear waste
stored at the reactor sites. That means that after 38 years of shipping
high level waste through our cities and our towns, we will have reduced
on-site storage of nuclear waste by a mere 4 percent. Why would we want
to risk shipping nuclear waste across 43 States for 38 years if it
makes no difference in the amount of waste stored on-site throughout
There are also very serious scientific concerns with the proposed
dump. Yucca Mountain is located in an earthquake and volcanic eruption
zone. Studies have shown that groundwater can travel through fissures
in the mountain in a very short time frame, dissolve the waste and
contaminate groundwater supplies, releasing deadly toxins into the
environment of the Southwest. Recently an independent investigation by
the General Accounting Office found that there were 293 unresolved
scientific questions that the government had failed to address, and the
Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board expressed limited confidence in
the DOE's work, calling it ``weak to moderate.''
Would any of us get on an airplane if the FAA said it had only
limited confidence in the pilot's ability to take off and land? Would
any of us drive across a bridge if its structure was described as weak
to moderate? Would any of us take medication if the FDA said there were
still 293 unresolved questions about its safety? The answer is obvious.
The answer is no. Yet with Yucca Mountain, that is exactly what we are
going to do. The nerve of this administration to pretend that this
decision is based on sound science.
If Congress approves this project, as many as 108,000 shipments of
nuclear waste will travel through 43 States en route to Yucca Mountain.
The government's own statistical models show that we can expect between
50 and 300 accidents involving nuclear waste. People make mistakes.
Accidents happen. But an accident involving nuclear waste would be
catastrophic, exposing whole communities to radiation and destroying
the environment for thousands of years. The cost of evacuation and
remediation would be astronomic, not to mention the unspeakable cost of
An even more devastating scenario would be a terrorist attack. We
already know that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are looking for
the material to go in a dirty bomb. These waste transports are exactly
the type of target rich environment they are looking for. In the wake
of 9/11, we cannot afford to be naive and believe that we are safe from
people who would give up their own lives to end ours.
Yucca Mountain will do nothing to fix the nuclear waste problem in
our country. It will greatly exacerbate our vulnerabilities to
terrorist attacks. With every truck, rail and barge shipment, our
homeland security becomes more and more difficult to defend. The Yucca
Mountain project will put us all at risk by transporting ``mobile
Chernobyls'' through our communities, small towns and cities. If we
cannot move the waste safely, then we should not be moving it at all.
Many of my colleagues ask if there is an alternative. The PECO
utility in Philadelphia has reached an agreement with the government in
which the Department of Energy will take title to the waste, allowing
the government to protect it in reinforced secure facilities without
moving it around the country, and at the same time allowing the utility
to lower its tax payments and its bottom line.
In the long term, our country needs to invest its resources into
emerging technologies seeking solutions to reduce volume, toxicity and
half-life of nuclear waste. We also need to develop alternative
renewable energy sources to relieve our dependence on foreign oil and
Almost 50 years ago, the Department of Energy came to Nevada and
asked us to bear the brunt of atomic testing. They assured Nevada test
site workers and other citizens in my State that sound science
demonstrated these tests were not harmful. Many of these workers are
now dead, their families devastated, and this government can never
clean up that legacy. Now the Department of Energy is coming to Nevada
yet again and asking us to put trust in them like they did our parents
and our grandparents. Well, this Congresswoman and mother of two is
going to stand up to the Federal Government and say, no, I will not let
my children become the cancerous legacy of the DOE's disingenuous
promise of safety and sound science.
I urge Members to vote ``no'' on this resolution. It is a bad one. It
is a bad one for our families. It is a bad one for our country.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to yield 3 minutes to the
gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Shimkus), a distinguished member of our
committee and a lieutenant colonel of the Army Reserves.
(Mr. SHIMKUS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this joint
resolution. I am also proud to be an original cosponsor of this
legislation. The vote that Congress will be taking today says that
after 20 years of exhaustive scientific analysis the government is
ready to designate Yucca Mountain--a barren, windswept desert ridge 90
miles northwest of Las Vegas--a safe site and move to the licensing
phase for the development of an underground disposal facility. The
industry, environmental, labor, consumer and business groups have
applauded the President and Secretary Abraham for making this decision
on sound science.
The administration is acting responsibly to fulfill the Federal
Government's longstanding obligation to the American people to safely
isolate and dispose of used nuclear fuel and defense waste. Now
Congress must act to affirm President Bush's decision and advance the
Nation's energy, economic and environmental security.
There has been and will be a lot of discussion today on transporting
of nuclear waste. Numerous Members have come before this body and have
expressed concerns about the safety of transporting spent nuclear fuel.
The truth is their concerns are misguided. You cannot argue with the
fact that almost 3,000 safe shipments of used nuclear fuel have taken
place without any release of radioactive material. That is right. On
some 3,000 occasions, used fuel has traveled by truck or rail across
the country, including almost 500 in my home State of Illinois. The
reason you probably have not heard about this is because not one of
these shipments has threatened the environment or public safety.
States like Illinois, which currently has 11 nuclear reactors and
gets almost half of our electricity from nuclear power, have gone to
great lengths to set up a system that will ensure safe transportation
of nuclear waste through the State and across State lines.
They inspect the trucks and trains; they inspect the roads, the rail
lines. They have set up emergency response systems with local
governments. They coordinate all routes with the Federal Government;
and most of all, they ensure that the citizens of Illinois remain safe.
Transporting spent nuclear material is safe. It has been proven to be
safe, and there is no reason to doubt that it will remain safe.
The State of Nevada has a tremendous nuclear legacy, as identified by
this recently approved Nevada State license plate. The State of Nevada
can again fulfill their nuclear legacy and continue to aid this Nation
and our citizens by safely storing high-level nuclear waste for our
country. I ask all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio
Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Speaker, the transportation of this waste will
require over 96,000 truck shipments over 4 decades. Almost every major
east-west interstate highway and mainland railroad in the country will
experience high-level waste shipments. More highly-radioactive waste
will be shipped in the first full year of repository operations than
has been transported in the entire 5-decade history of spent fuel
shipments in the United States.
The Department of Energy proposes to directly impact 44 States and
many of the major metropolitan areas in the Nation. At least 109 cities
with populations exceeding 100,000, including my constituents in
Cleveland, Ohio, will be subjected to repeated shipments with minimal
safeguards. Highway shipments alone will impact at least 703 counties
with a combined population of 123 million people. Nationally, 11
million people reside within one-half mile of a truck or rail route.
This never-before-attempted radioactive materials transportation
effort will bring with it many risks, including potentially serious
economic damage and property value losses in cities and communities
along shipping routes. The poorly tested transportation casks may be
vulnerable to highway accidents and security breaches.
Because of a lack of rail facilities to several reactors, the
Department of Energy will use barge shipments to move this waste to a
port capable of transferring the 120-ton cask to a train. Some of these
shipments will occur on the Great Lakes, the world's largest source of
fresh water. Over 35 million people living in the Great Lakes basin use
it for drinking water.
The Federal Government must radically improve the safety and security
of these shipments, and that is the purpose of the Nuclear Waste
Transportation Protection Amendments Act of 2002 which I have
Mr. Speaker, this legislation would, one, require comprehensive
nuclear waste transportation safety programs; two, protect populated
communities; three, establish that the oldest fuel first should be
shipped; four, require full-scale cask testing; five, require State and
local route consultations; six, private carrier prohibitions; seven,
advanced notification; and, eight, safety precautions.
Vote against this legislation.
Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Let me begin by recognizing the outstanding efforts the gentleman
from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin), our committee chairman; the gentleman from
Michigan (Mr. Dingell), our ranking member; the gentleman from Texas
(Mr. Barton), our subcommittee chairman; and the gentleman from
Virginia (Mr. Boucher), our ranking subcommittee member. They have done
an excellent job on a very important piece of legislation.
As an original cosponsor, I rise to wholeheartedly support this
legislation. As we discuss energy self-sufficiency and national
security, we must keep in mind that nuclear energy is an important part
of a balanced energy portfolio. This Nation has 103 reactors that have
a unique ability to power economic growth without polluting our air.
This is the only expandable, large-scale electricity source that avoids
emissions. Nuclear power is reliable and affordable, with production
costs lower than coal and natural gas plants.
Today, nuclear energy produces 20 percent of our electricity and is
essential to our national security. However, it is important to
recognize that there must be permanent disposal of nuclear waste. This
is a reality which must be addressed and which we are trying to deal
with here today.
Electricity consumers under the National Nuclear Waste Policy Act
have committed $18 billion since 1983 to pay for the disposal and
storage of nuclear waste. The Federal Government has spent $7 billion
in this same period to study Yucca Mountain, and we are right now
overdue in fulfilling our commitment to electricity consumers. In my
own State of Maryland, consumers have paid $237 million into the
Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund since 1983. We in the State of Maryland are
expecting the Federal Government to reach a conclusion. I believe the
rest of the country feels the same.
Yucca Mountain is a safe site for all Americans. Currently, spent
nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is temporarily stored in
131 above-ground facilities in 39 States. Mr. Speaker, 161 million
Americans live within 75 miles of these sites. One central site
provides more protection for this material than do the existing 131
sites. After 20 years of research, billions of dollars of carefully
planned and reviewed scientific field work, the Department of Energy
has concluded that the repository at Yucca Mountain brings together the
location, the natural barriers, and the design elements most likely to
protect the health and safety of the public, including those Americans
living in the immediate vicinity.
Used nuclear fuel storage in current power plants is safe, but
nuclear power plants are not designed for long-term disposal. Permanent
disposal, permanent long-term disposal will be managed by the Federal
Government under this bill. The fuel will be stored 1,000 feet
underground where it will be more secure.
Now, many people today have talked about transportation issues. We
have empirical experience. After 45 years of experience and 3,000
shipments of used nuclear fuel by rail and by truck, no radiation
releases, no fatalities, injuries or environmental damage have occurred
because of the radioactivity of the cargo. The Department of Energy
will coordinate transportation routes with local and State officials so
local communities will not be excluded from this process. When
operational, there will only be one or two shipments per day.
This is the reality. This is the challenge that Congress has been
asked to address. With 20 percent of our electricity produced by
nuclear power plants, how do we dispose of it? We have studied it for
20 years. The American taxpayers have paid billions of dollars to have
it disposed of. We have a site and we have sound science. I urge us to
pass this resolution and dispose of nuclear waste.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from
Michigan (Ms. Rivers).
(Ms. RIVERS asked and was given permission to revise and extend her
Ms. RIVERS. Mr. Speaker, I stand in opposition to this proposal.
Under this particular plan, over 100,000 train, truck, and barge
shipments, each carrying deadly, high-level nuclear waste, would have
to go through 45 States, over 300 congressional districts, and hundreds
of cities and towns; and 77,000 tons of nuclear waste would have to be
relocated, which would require up to 108,000, 108,000 truck, rail, and
barge shipments over 38 years.
Based on the Department of Energy estimates, a nuclear waste shipment
would have to leave a site somewhere in the United States every 4 hours
for 24 years. Three thousand barge shipments may be necessary,
including shipments on the world's largest fresh water source, the
Great Lakes, which surround my beautiful State, to reach this plant.
So far, over 16 million Americans would be projected to live within a
half mile of proposed nuclear transportation routes. The shipping
containers now available cannot resist explosives or fires associated
with truck and rail accidents.
Proponents speak with a confidence belied by actual experience. The
entire history of nuclear shipments to date
comprised less than 1 percent of the total to be shipped to Yucca
Mountain. This waste is so radioactive that direct exposure quickly
causes death and even a minute particle ingested or inhaled will cause
We will hear from other speakers that legitimate doubts exist as to
the safety of the proposed site and that even if approved, the Yucca
Mountain solution does not come close to solving the Nation's nuclear
waste problem. After 30 to 40 years of continuous shipping of nuclear
waste through our cities and towns, so much more waste will have been
produced, but there will be hardly a dent in today's problem.
Additionally, the cost of the Yucca Mountain project is spiraling out
of control. A few years ago, the Energy Department said it would cost
hundreds of millions of dollars. Now they say it is $56 billion.
Independent estimates of the costs soar into the hundreds of billions,
some up to $309 billion. The nuclear waste trust fund has only $11
billion in it. Where is the money going to come from? More taxes?
Social Security? How will we pay the cost of this proposal?
Taxpayers should not end up footing the bill for the power industry's
spent fuel. ``No'' is the right vote.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 6 minutes.
(Mr. BARTON of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and
extend his remarks.)
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, before I begin my prepared remarks,
I want to apologize to the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons). In the
motion on the point of order, I was trying to be humorous and if I
offended the gentleman in any way, I am prepared to ask that my own
words be taken down, because the last thing in the world I want this
body or the country to feel is that I do not have the utmost and total
respect for the gentleman from Nevada and the fine work that he has
done on behalf of his constituents.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. BARTON of Texas. I yield to the gentleman from Nevada.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman for the
opportunity. Certainly I appreciate the gentleman's remarks and his
words are very serious to me. I want the gentleman to know that we take
this debate very seriously. I appreciate the gentleman's concern and
his remarks, and certainly no offense was taken.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, we are here today to move a
resolution that would move forward the process that would ultimately
result in a site being selected to store high-level nuclear waste that
has been generated primarily by our civilian nuclear reactors in this
country. Those reactors have been generating electricity for the
American people for the last approximately 40 years. Today, 20 percent
of our Nation's electricity is generated by nuclear power generators.
At the time those power plants were put into operation, there was not a
plan on where to store the high-level nuclear waste, because at that
time it was assumed that the Congress and the industry and the various
advocacy and stakeholder groups would mutually agree on a plan and a
site, or sites. That has not happened for a number of reasons.
Nuclear power has become very controversial. The issue of where to
store the waste has been used as a surrogate on whether one was for or
against nuclear power, which brings us to today. In 1987, we passed a
series of amendments in an appropriations bill that said we are going
to store this waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Since that time, we
have spent approximately $7 billion trying to determine whether, in
fact, that was a wise decision. There have been hundreds of thousands
of studies, hundreds of thousands of man-hours spent conducting
studies, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, to determine whether
it is safe to store the high-level nuclear waste out at Yucca Mountain.
The Department of Energy submitted a recommendation to the President;
the recommendation to the President said that they think it is safe.
The outside policy review board that has the watchdog opportunity has
said that that recommendation is weak to moderate, but the technical
issues that are outstanding can be resolved in the next several years.
So this resolution simply says the Governor's objection to that
decision, the Governor of Nevada, the State in which the repository
would be located, not withstanding that the Congress goes on record
telling the Department of Energy that it can go ahead and go forward
with the licensing application process to the Nuclear Regulatory
Now, I would point out that there is nothing absolutely certain in
life except death. We are all going to die. In the interim, we want to
make our lives as positive and as constructive as possible; and in the
modern era we want energy sources that are safe and efficient and
reliable to make our lives as constructive as possible. Those that
oppose the repository at Yucca Mountain because it is not 100 percent
certain that over the next 400,000 years there is absolutely no way
that something wrong can go wrong are asking for the impossible.
I cannot guarantee that when I walk out of this Chamber to go back to
my office, if I cross the street, that a car will not hit me. I do not
think it will, but I cannot guarantee that I will not have some sort of
an accident just walking from here back to the Rayburn Office Building.
The probabilities are that I will not.
If we look at all the scientific evidence that has been prepared on
Yucca Mountain, it shows that to the degree that men and women can
provide certainty, we are certain that for the next 10,000 years the
repository at Yucca Mountain will be safe.
So I would ask when it comes time to have this vote that we vote to
send this resolution to the other body and we say that we believe that
we need to make a decision to have a repository, and that repository
should be at Yucca Mountain. Then we will work together in a bipartisan
fashion to guarantee the transportation issues, to guarantee the safety
and scientific issues so that the repository can be built and
maintained in a safe and effective fashion.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from
Texas (Mr. Doggett).
Mr. DOGGETT. Mr. Speaker, I have to admit, the first time I heard
about the concept of placing this waste at Yucca Mountain a few years
ago, I thought it was a very good idea. I thought so for one reason:
Nevada is not Texas. I think that is the main reason why so many people
approve of the Yucca Mountain site today, because Nevada is not South
Carolina, it is not Maine, and it is not California.
But as one of my neighbors, Molly Ivins, pointed out recently in a
column, ``putting the nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain is Nevada's
problem. Getting it there is ours.'' These transportation routes will
affect not just Nevada, but families in most every State in the
Indeed, one of the routes the Energy Department had on its list until
recently, consistent with some of the comments that we do not need to
worry about transportation, was within sight of the United States
Capitol. They were proposing to run this nuclear waste through
To the gentleman who came and said that we have never had a problem
hauling nuclear waste, I submit that his statement is about as
persuasive as someone who stood on this floor last year and said an
airplane has never been used as a bomb. Things are different after
September 11, and are we increasing the risk to the American people,
increasing the exposure, by having these ``mobile Chernobyls'' crossing
the country back and forth, affecting millions and millions of United
States citizens. Or would we be better off looking for alternatives to
nuclear power and looking for long-term alternatives to Yucca Mountain?
The truth of the matter is that if we really recognize how long this
waste is going to be dangerous, the NIMBY approach, not in my backyard,
one needs to recognize that Nevada is in the backyard of everyone in
this country. It cannot be isolated from everyone else.
The other big issue is not just the length of the time, the question
is whether we want to have an incentive for more and more of this waste
to be generated. They say, ``If you build it
they will come.'' But this isn't a ``Field of Dreams,'' it is a
``mountain of nightmares.'' If this facility is established, there will
be more and more nuclear waste generated.
Finally, I have to say that I particularly want to applaud the
leadership of the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley). She has been
unceasing in bringing to our attention all of the implications of this
very serious mistake that has been proposed.
I know there is some bipartisan support for it, but it is troubling
that a Republican President and a House Republican leadership would so
aggressively promote this unfortunate resolution, and that we would be
told by Republican leaders during debate that this is ``Nevada's
legacy.'' It is a legacy we will all be stuck with if this measure is
Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas
(Mr. STENHOLM asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Speaker, few issues could be more important to the
future security of the United States than passage of House Joint
Resolution 87. For over two decades, scientists have subjected the
suitability of Yucca Mountain to intense scrutiny, at a cost of more
than $7 billion. It has been concluded that radioactive material can be
safely stored deep underground in this area.
Today, this material is located at 131 different sites around the
country in temporary above-ground storage. As a result, almost 162
million people live within 75 miles of one of these temporary storage
facilities. Consolidating this material in one safe, secure underground
location is the rational answer to the waste disposal question.
Furthermore, by moving excess waste from commercial and
decommissioned plants, we will remove 131 targets from a potential
Some would make an issue of transportation. The Department of
Transportation, in conjunction with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
has ensured that many precautions are taken when transporting nuclear
materials relating to routing, security, tracking of progress via
satellite on a 24-hour basis, and coordination with State officials. To
date, we have transported more than 2,700 shipments of spent nuclear
fuel over the last 30 years, traveling over 1.6 million miles without
any harmful release of radiation.
Preliminary route selection and detailed planning will begin at least
5 years before the first shipment takes place.
Nothing is perfect, but I would say, as a rural electric cooperative
manager, I worked to promote alternative energy sources 9 years before
coming to Congress. Our membership thought it important to invest in
alternative energy sources such as nuclear as a means to balance our
energy budget. This was in 1970.
The 103 operating nuclear power plants in the United States are
providing 20 percent of the Nation's electricity. In fact, nuclear
power supplies 10 percent of the electricity generated in Texas,
including that produced by TXU's Comanche Peak plant in my district.
Please join me in supporting the Federal Government's commitment to
safely store nuclear fuel by voting for House Joint Resolution 87.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the
distinguished gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Upton), chairman of the
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the Committee on
Energy and Commerce.
Mr. UPTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to
I, too, would like to compliment my friends and colleagues, the
gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons) and the gentleman from
Massachusetts (Mr. Markey). They have been good adversaries on this
issue from the start.
Let me read the President's signing statement when he signed the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act:
``The Nuclear Waste Policy Act which I am signing today provides the
long overdue assurance that we now have a safe and effective solution
to the nuclear waste problem. It allows the Federal Government to
fulfill its responsibilities concerning nuclear waste in a timely and
responsible manner.'' The President was Ronald Reagan. The date was
January 7, 1983, nearly 20 years ago.
The other side, the opponents of this legislation, say that we have
not had enough study. We have not spent enough money. Well, we have
spent nearly $15 billion getting this site ready, decades in time.
Where is this site, Yucca Mountain? Well, it is on Federal land. It
is close, if not contiguous, to where we have done nuclear testing for
decades. It will never be a vacation spot.
Many of the detractors that have spoken today and will speak have
always been against nuclear power, which, by the way, provides nearly
20 percent of our Nation's power. Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the
gentleman was when the nuclear power decision was made. I do know where
I was, elementary school, a long, long time ago.
When the decision was made, the Federal Government said it would take
care of the long-term safety and storage of high-level nuclear waste.
This was confirmed by the courts.
For my district we have two nuclear plants, both on the shores of
Lake Michigan. These two are among 103 throughout the country. Every
single one of these facilities is an environmentally sensitive area.
Many have run out of room for the storage of high-level nuclear waste.
I have seen the lead-lined cement silos in the dunes of Lake Michigan.
Yes, they are safe for now, but I do not know that they are safe for
1,000 years, let alone 10,000 years, as will be certified in Nevada
before it will accept nuclear waste, still more than a decade away.
The process for safe storage started nearly 40 years ago. We need to
finish the job today. Safe storage and safe transportation of high-
level nuclear waste in one safe place is essential, particularly with
the events of 9/11. We have shipped more than 1,700 shipments of high-
level nuclear waste more than 1 million miles across this country
without a single release of radioactivity.
I know that that track record can continue. I would urge all of my
colleagues to support this legislation and send it to the other body.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, could I ask how much time remains
controlled by the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin)?
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). Twenty-four and one-half
Mr. MARKEY. Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for us to get a review
of the time that each of us has at this point?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Markey) has 42\1/2\ minutes.
Mr. MARKEY. And the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wynn)?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Maryland has 9\1/2\
Mr. MARKEY. I think it would be appropriate, if the gentleman would
not mind, for me to recognize a few of our Members right now so that
the time would come down.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Did the Speaker say that the gentleman from
Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) had 42\1/2\ minutes?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. That is what the Chair was advised. That is
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Speaker. When the
total time was only 40 minutes, how does he get 42\1/2\ minutes?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. No, the time controlled originally was 1
hour on each side, 2 hours total between proponents and opponents.
There is 24\1/2\ minutes remaining for the gentleman from Texas (Mr.
Barton), 42\1/2\ minutes for the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Markey), and 9\1/2\ minutes for the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wynn).
Mr. MARKEY. If I may at this point, there was an hour divided evenly
between opponents and proponents, and generously, the majority has
relinquished 20 of its 60 minutes to the minority that shares the same
views in support of Yucca Mountain.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton)
object to the gentleman from Massachusetts' suggestion to have two or
three speakers in sequence due to the imbalance?
Mr. BARTON of Texas. I am sorry, I did not know that he had a pending
request. What was the request?
Mr. MARKEY. The request was that I be allowed to recognize----
Mr. BARTON of Texas. I would generously allow the gentleman from
Massachusetts be allowed to recognize two or three of his speakers in
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Utah
Mr. MATHESON. Mr. Speaker, I am from the West. This is not the first
time the West has been asked to shoulder the nuclear burden of our
country. Dozens of atom bombs were detonated at the Nevada test site
between 1951 and 1963. The West was chosen because as long as the winds
were blowing east, the fallout avoided big cities and traveled over
sparsely populated Nevada and Utah towns.
I remember my father telling me how people in southern Utah would
watch the sky light up, and how southern Utahans supported the program
because they were strong patriots who believed in their country and
they trusted their government.
In the 1970s, my father, then the Governor of Utah, was puzzled over
an alarming number of cancer deaths among our family and friends in
southern Utah. Over and over he read ``cancer'' on death certificates
of family members, more than 50 aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The Federal Government told us we were safe, but the Federal
Government knew we were at risk. On October 7, 1990, my father died at
age 61 from a cancer called multiple myeloma. Thousands of citizens
throughout the West continue to get sick and die from radiation
We saw a picture of a license plate talking about the nuclear legacy
of Nevada. That is a legacy of which we should be ashamed.
Why are we moving this waste at this time? We are not running out of
storage space at existing sites, and in the coming years, technological
advancements in reprocessing and recycling may very well take care of
much of the waste.
That brings us to the real fallacy of this entire exercise. If
Members think a vote for Yucca Mountain gets rid of the waste in
Members' backyards, they are wrong. As long as power plants are
operating, new waste will need to stay put on-site for up to 10 years
to cool down before it can be shipped.
I can tell the Members as son of a downwinder and a Congressman who
represents thousands of sick, dying, and widowed victims of our nuclear
testing that the Federal record on this issue has been appalling. Our
Nation is one of shared responsibility. By opposing the
transcontinental shipment of nuclear waste, we take care of all those
millions of people who live along the roads and tracks to Yucca
Mountain. We protect their future from what is an unfortunate legacy of
my own State.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from
Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from
Massachusetts for his kindness in yielding me time.
I think the very passionate words of our good friend, the gentleman
from Utah, should really speak to the concerns that we bring to the
floor of the House today.
Let me acknowledge the leadership of the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms.
Berkeley) for the passion that she has given to this issue. But I
really think that we are here today to begin a discussion on whether or
not nuclear energy should be at the forefront of the policies of the
United States of America, whether or not we need to begin looking at
conservation and other issues, because let me tell the Members what is
bad about this particular proposal: It is bad science.
As a member of the Committee on Science, let me tell the Members that
we are not complying with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act passed by this
Congress 20 years ago. We are not adhering to good science.
Just recently, the General Accounting Office found 293 defects in the
research and advised the Bush administration to hold off on passing
this resolution until 2006. If my math serves me right, I believe we
are in 2002. This is the concern that those of us who live in
communities who have nuclear waste and have nuclear power plants have.
I would imagine those individuals are now looking at the gentlewoman
from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) on the floor of the House and asking, why
are you speaking against your own neighborhood?
I am speaking for America and what is going to happen to the
thousands of neighborhoods and schools which this waste will be
traveling by and endangering the lives of those who are seeking only to
live in this country with a great quality of life. My friend from Utah
(Mr. Matheson) said it all. People are dying of cancer. People are
dying because they have been exposed to radiation with no good science.
Let us not make the same mistakes. Let us implement a process of good
science. Let us wait until 2006. Let us get rid of 293 defects. Let us
not have the children of America looking outside their window, and
rather than saying hello to the choo-choo train, they are looking at a
deadly disaster that may happen in their neighborhoods.
I do not mind standing up with the few and the brave, recognizing
that someone has to speak out. We have to change our attitude, and I
would say we have to reject $40 million in lobbying for the Yucca
Mountain. I oppose H.J. Res. 87 and I ask my colleagues to do so.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from
California (Mr. Baca).
(Mr. BACA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I stand in opposition to H.J. Res. 87. We need
a coherent national strategy dealing with nuclear waste, but this
decision is about local control. It is inappropriate for us to be
micromanaging Nevada on something that is so important. We should allow
the governor to do his job. He has decided that the Yucca Mountain
proposal is too dangerous to pursue any further and we should not
intervene in what is a State and local decision.
I am also concerned about the issue, not just about the Members of
Congress, but as neighbors of hundreds of thousands of people who could
be harmed by the transportation of this through an accident that could
occur. The Department of Energy may be way too tightlipped about the
transportation routes that waste would travel across the country on its
way to Yucca Mountain, but two things are certain. One, a very large
percentage of the waste would travel through my district, the Inland
Empire. Two, accidents will happen while transporting the spent nuclear
If you look at the map, virtually all the rails and routes would be
used through San Bernardino County, California, my home. Half of the
country saw Spiderman this weekend. Well, we are in the center of a
nuclear transportation web. The thought of it makes me angry. The
thought of it scares me, and it should scare my colleagues on both
sides of the aisle from the Inland Empire. I call on all the Members
from Inland Empire and Southern California to come together and oppose
Why should our constituents be forced to face so much more of a risk
of danger and other activities that may affect them?
Even the most conservative Energy Department studies say that many
accidents will occur and it is more likely it will occur in
transportation hubs like my district where we had recently a derailment
of a train that caused a lot of the homes in the areas to start burning
in the immediate area.
With this proposal, we will create thousands of moving targets for
terrorists. We know what happened on September 11 with the airplanes
crashing in the World Trade Center. Terrorists would not need a dirty
bomb because we will have thousands of them crawling across the Nation
just waiting for a fuse to ignite them, killing hundreds and thousands
People are already living in fear. We do not need to put additional
people in fear. I ask all Members to oppose this resolution.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair will recognize one additional
speaker of the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) and then will
go back to the rotation.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from
Washington (Mr. McDermott).
(Mr. McDERMOTT asked and was given permission to revise and extend
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I feel a little like Yogi Berra when he
said, ``This is deja vu all over again.''
I was in the State of Washington in 1980 when we had exactly this,
they were going to put all this in Hanford. We had a governor who said,
bring it all in. Bring it all in. Dixie Lee Ray. And we got an
initiative. We have collected the signatures and 75 percent of the
people in the State voted no, we do not want to accept all the waste
from the country. And she was defeated. I knocked her out in the
primary of that election.
Now, what you are looking at is this old business about NIMBY. It is
not in my back yard. Throw it over the fence. Well, you cannot throw
nuclear waste over the fence. And if you try, you will be putting it in
trucks and railroads all over this country. And if you did not see what
happened in Baltimore just a couple weeks ago where they had a train
wreck in that tunnel and two Amtrak train wrecks in the last month,
think about what happens in your neighborhoods if that happens.
Now, all Members who are voting yes are thinking thank God it is not
going to be in my neighborhood. But the fact is it is going to be in
your neighborhood. It is going to be on the roads. It is going to be on
the trains. It is going to be going past schools and hospitals. And
when that issue comes to you, as it did in the State of Washington,
suddenly all of the county sheriffs are saying, we do not know what we
are going to do with all these trucks coming by and we do not know if
there is a fire. We will need more money.
You will wind up giving yourself one headache because this is being
rushed through for one reason: The President has got the September 11
flag and he is waving it around and wrapping himself in it and saying,
We got to have nuclear power, and if we do not get rid of the nuclear
waste, we cannot have nuclear power. So he sees his chance. He wants to
ram this through in spite of the fact that the GAO says there are 293
problems. How can you go home and defend to your people that you just
ignored those problems? Vote no.
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from
Michigan (Mr. Dingell), the distinguished ranking member of the
Committee on Energy and Commerce.
(Mr. DINGELL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. DINGELL. Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot of misunderstanding
today. I have heard a lot of Members making some rather terrifying
speeches. I have heard a lot of important statements, and some of them
have been factual. I would ask that you listen to me because I want to
tell you what is going on.
First of all, this is not about putting nuclear waste anywhere.
Second of all, it is not about moving nuclear waste anywhere or
moving it down any particular road. It is just about a step in a
process to move forward to decide ultimately where and how we are going
to put all this nuclear waste.
Are there problems with it at this stage? Of course. Somebody said
293. There may be that. There may be more. But we spent $7 billion to
characterize Yucca Mountain as a site. Nothing is going to happen when
we pass this bill except that about 2 years down the road the NRC is
going to commence a licensing process to license a permanent storage
repository to receive the nuclear waste. That will be an open process.
Everybody will be permitted to have their say. Members of Congress here
who are complaining, all of their constituents, any industry, you name
it, can all have their say in that process. It is going to be a
thoroughly open process.
Now, there are going to be environmental problems whatever course we
take. We can leave this nuclear waste where it is. It is in pools. It
is in neighborhoods in your districts and mine. We can leave it there,
and it is going to create a lot of nuclear problems. We can set up some
other alternatives such as dry cask storage, and that is going to make
nuclear problems, and they are going to remain in your neighborhoods
and in my neighborhood.
Now, I am not an advocate of putting this anywhere. I am not an
advocate of putting it in Yucca Mountain or not putting it in Yucca
Mountain. I am simply an advocate of this Congress functioning
responsibly, to come to a decision on a major problem which we have, a
major energy problem, a major environmental problem, a major land use
problem, a major concern to the people of this country. We are
producing nuclear waste at nuclear power plants and we are producing it
in connection with our defense activities. That nuclear waste is going
to go somewhere. Right now it is scattered around the country in all
kinds of places, and it is a hazard to your constituents and mine.
We have got to have some resolution to this problem of nuclear waste
storage, and it has got to be reasonable, intelligent, and we have got
to come to the best solution we can.
I mentioned we have already spent $7 billion to characterize this
site, and we will have to spend a lot more. I do not know what the
licensing process is going to cost, but it is going to be plenty. As I
mentioned, it is going to be open. Ultimately, we have to address the
Whatever we do is going to create environmental difficulties. It will
be the responsibility of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and of
this Congress and of NRC, of the executive department of government, of
EPA and all of the other agencies, to see that the process is conducted
in a way which is safe, which creates a minimum of hazard, to see that
the transportation is done as safely as it can be done with as little
risk as possible to the community and the people through which it
It will also be our responsibility to see to it that all of the
questions which remain to be answered are answered. That will be a part
of the licensing process, which is going to go on for something like 4
to 6 years after we conclude this. The probabilities are that the
decision will not be made until some time around 2010 or perhaps even
I think it makes good sense that this body should exercise ordinary
responsibility. We have a duty to the people to resolve this question.
We are setting about taking another step towards the conclusion of an
open process to arrive at a decision, followed by the licensing process
which will take place at NRC and, as I mentioned, that will be fully
open. EPA will be participating in that. Every other citizen who has a
My advice to this body is proceed. We are simply taking a step
forward. Let us take that step forward and make the process work in an
open fashion for the benefit of all us. Let us resolve the question
today. Vote aye.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman
from Georgia (Mr. Norwood), a member of the committee, who is
Mr. NORWOOD. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
Mr. Speaker, as an original co-sponsor of this, I rise in very, very
strong support of this resolution. The selection of Yucca Mountain as a
permanent nuclear waste repository is probably one of the most
important questions that can face this Congress and for years to come.
As we all know, and it has been said over and over again, over 45,000
metric tons of spent nuclear fuel are currently scattered across the
country in some 70-plus sites across our Nation. Clearly, clearly, it
is in the American public's best interest to construct one permanent,
highly secured repository for this waste. And, hopefully, one day a lot
less of the waste as we get our mixed oxide fuel plants built and we
can reduce the volume of this waste, which is where I hope we are
Twenty years ago the Nuclear Waste Policy Act set a policy in motion.
Twenty years ago. The DOE has now spent over $6.7 billion on
characterization and development activities at Yucca Mountain. Now,
part of this debate really ought to be why in the world has it taken 20
years to solve this problem after spending $7 billion, not to speak of
the millions of dollars that ratepayers have spent?
Having been to Yucca Mountain, I believe the dollars spent have
yielded credible research and pretty sound science that justifies this
Congress moving to the next step. The vote today does not lock us in
we are not committed forever to Yucca Mountain, as the gentleman from
Michigan (Mr. Dingell) pointed out. Even the Washington Post and the
New York Times actually agree with me that now is not the time to jump
ship. Granted, that gave me some second thoughts, but they are right.
Now is not the time to jump ship.
The development of a permanent, secure repository for spent nuclear
fuel is imperative for this country. It is important to my constituents
at both the Savannah River site and Plant Vogle, but it is absolutely
vital to the national energy policy and to our homeland security.
I urge our Members, vote ``yes'' on this today.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from
Colorado (Ms. DeGette).
Ms. DeGETTE. Mr. Speaker, I oppose authorizing Yucca Mountain as the
permanent site for our Nation's nuclear waste at this point, and I will
tell my colleagues why. Politics are driving this process and not
science. I realize that the proponents of this site say that the
nuclear industry and the Department of Energy have already studied the
issue; but frankly, it is the final grade that matters, not how much we
study, and at this point, Yucca Mountain still gets a failing grade for
many in the scientific community.
Scientists both at the GAO and elsewhere have stated, we have heard
that, that there are still issues to be addressed. There are still
serious issues at the site, the seismic activity and ground water
migration. The studies on those issues will not be completed till 2006.
That does not mean that Yucca will never achieve a passing grade. Maybe
future studies will determine this is the best and only place for
America's nuclear waste, but this is supposed to be the site where we
put our Nation's radioactive waste for the next 10,000 years.
I do not oppose Yucca Mountain as a potential site outright. I just
do not think that the designation is timely. How about completing the
scientific studies first? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
I also, frankly, have grave concerns about transporting the waste. A
few years ago in Denver, Colorado, where I-70, the major east-west
highway, and I-25, the major north-south highway, intersect, a truck
with a big missile on it fell over, and I shudder to think what would
happen if a truck containing radioactive waste fell over in the Mouse
Trap in Denver, Colorado, during rush hour. I do not care how safe
people say that is.
So let us make sure that we have the science. Let us make sure that
we have real transportation assurances and that local governments are
working with us. Let us have that in place before we do this. It only
makes sense. Vote ``no'' on the Yucca Mountain resolution.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from
American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega).
(Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA asked and was given permission to revise and extend
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from
Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) and the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms.
Berkley) for their leadership roles in this debate.
Mr. Speaker, why are we so bent on storing nuclear waste at Yucca
Mountain? Is it because the U.S. has already conducted more than 1,000
underground nuclear bombs in the deserts of Nevada? How fair is it to
ask the good people of Nevada to also be the sole keeper of our
Nation's highly radioactive nuclear waste? How fair is it to transport
nuclear waste across America's farm lands, which are easier targets for
terrorists to attack?
The fact of the matter is the largest concentration of nuclear
reactors lies east of the Mississippi, and the risk of transporting
highly radioactive spent fuel from these nuclear plants is a risk this
Nation just cannot afford to take.
Mr. Speaker, highly radioactive spent fuel or nuclear waste is one of
the most toxic and dangerous substances known to mankind. For 10,000
years, highly radioactive spent fuel is dangerous to human life. Visit
the Marshall Islands if my colleagues want to see the residual effects
of some 66 nuclear bombs that were exploded in Micronesia. The reason
why we discontinued testing in the Marshalls is because we found
strontium 90 in milk products in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Visit the islands of Moruroa and Fangataufa in the South Pacific and
ask the French Government if after detonating 220 nuclear bombs, that
nuclear contamination is now leaking into the ocean in the Pacific
Ocean, despite assurances from the French Government officials that
this process is okay and is good for 1,000 years. Give me a break, Mr.
I fear the good people of Nevada are going to experience the same
thing. If the Congress approves this project, the Department of Energy
suggests there will be as many 108,500 surface shipments of nuclear
waste making its way across the heartland of America. Another 3,000
shipments will make their way by barge across our waters.
Mr. Speaker, whether we spend $1 or $100 billion to clean up our
Nation's nuclear waste, any amount of money can never be equal to the
life of any human being.
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hall).
(Mr. HALL of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and
extend his remarks.)
Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today, of course, in support
of H.J. Res. 87, a bill, as all of my colleagues know, that provides
for the development of Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository.
I think, though, first a word to those who oppose this resolution.
They have done so honorably, steadfastly, and to be Texas plain with
them, they have done so doggedly and working and speaking for the care
of their constituents' will. For that, I admire and respect them. To
paraphrase Reverend Billy Graham, I hate sin but I love the sinner. I
hate the absence of a permanent repository, but I love and respect
those who oppose this bill. I simply differ with them, and I differ
with them for these reasons:
I think, first, that it has an unparalleled safety record in
transporting nuclear fuel. That is necessary. That is first; and,
second, the long open public licensing process. More than 45 years of
experience and 3,000 successful shipments of used nuclear fuel within
the United States demonstrates that this material can be safely
transported to Yucca Mountain by rail and/or by truck. No radiation
release, no fatalities, no injuries or environmental damage has
occurred because of the radioactivity of the cargo.
The containers used to ship nuclear fuel are specially designed,
robust steel containers that have undergone rigorous testing and can
withstand extreme conditions including long-lasting fires, high-speed
crashes, even submersion in water. The maintained integrity of the
containers ensures the health and safety of the public and environment
during transportation of spent nuclear fuel.
Mr. Speaker, upon site approval, a three step nuclear regulatory
commission licensing process will test and verify DOE's scientific work
in a highly rigorous public process. The scientific work will continue
throughout the licensing period and operation of the repository so that
the government will always be governed by the most recent science.
Again, I admire and respect those who defend their constituents. I
urge my colleagues, however though, to support H.J. Res. 87. Let us
move this bill on and get it behind us.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). The gentleman from Virginia
(Mr. Boucher) has 2 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Massachusetts
(Mr. Markey) has 30 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Louisiana
(Mr. Tauzin) has 22\1/2\ minutes remaining.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the
distinguished gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Burr), the vice
chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
(Mr. BURR of North Carolina asked and was given permission to revise
and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BURR of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the
full committee for yielding me the time.
I was struck earlier when the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell)
got up to speak because all of the sudden, after my lunch partner today
was our former colleague, ranking member on the Commerce Committee, Jim
Broyhill, I began to realize that between the gentleman from Michigan
(Mr. Dingell) and Mr. Broyhill and our current chairman, they were here
in 1985 when the energy policy act was, in fact, passed; and they
shepherded it through, and it really did start the process rolling.
For 20 years from then we are now here today trying to make sure that
a process continues to move forward, and I found it striking that
Senator Broyhill looked at me and said we envisioned that this would
only take 10 years. Well, it has taken 20 now; and the question, as the
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell) so appropriately raised, are we
going to allow it to go to the next step?
This is not about shipping waste tomorrow. This is about allowing a
process to go to the next step where in the licensing phase we may
learn more. To stand up and suggest that science has not been applied
to this project is only to say that under the definition in Webster's
there is one area that we have not covered, whether it is applicable or
not, but every study that people have suggested has been done on this
The gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell) strongly worded across this
country today we store in our communities, in our backyards waste
today, waste that eventually we are committed, as the Federal
Government and as stewards of the trust fund with the rate payer money,
to make sure that it has been used in a way that is effective long
To my colleagues today I would urge them, this has been studied and
we will continue to study it; but the way to continue to study it is
not to stop the process. It is to let the process go forward. It is to
make sure, in fact, that we are a little further down the road in the
licensing process as well as our understanding of the transportation
challenges that we will be faced with.
I am confident that the 400 trillion Btus that North Carolina
receives in low-cost energy from nuclear is something we have to have
in the future. Do not cut this out by making sure nuclear is cut out
because we have nowhere to store it. I urge passage.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from
California (Mrs. Capps).
Mrs. CAPPS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this bill.
The environmental questions surrounding the Yucca Mountain site have
not been adequately answered and a decision with a 1,000-year impact
should not be made with questions hanging.
Our Nevada colleagues and the constituents they represent have spoken
about the hundreds of questions regarding the safety of a site which is
in their backyard. They deserve an answer to these questions.
Of course, Yucca's supporters claim that if the licensing process
indicates that testing and environmental problems may occur, plans
could be changed or reevaluated; but we all know this is Washington,
and a project like Yucca takes on a life of its own, and I have grave
concerns about transportation plans for all this nuclear waste.
The recent terrorist attacks raise questions about security at
nuclear power plants and DOE facilities across the country. In my
district, local power plant officials and the nuclear regulatory
commission spent days issuing conflicting statements about how
vulnerable Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is to an attack. My
constituents were understandably unsettled by the obvious lack of
coordination and planning for this facility in their own backyard.
Against this backdrop we add the problem of protecting shipments of
dangerous nuclear waste. This scenario of thousands of nuclear waste-
laden trucks and barges careening across our roads and waterways should
give us all pause. In my district, DOE wants to load tons of nuclear
waste on barges and bring the barges through the Santa Barbara Channel,
but I question some of the planning here. Let me cite just one example.
The dry cask storage containers that will carry this waste are tested
to withstand submersion in water, but I do not believe there has been
submersion tests for these casks at anything like the depths found in
the Santa Barbara Channel. So what happens if there is an accident and
a number of these concrete containers end up at the bottom of the
channel? Will they be able to withstand the extreme depths? Can we
If the answer is no to either of these questions, what then happens
to the fishing industry, the other ships that use the channel? How safe
does this channel and the surrounding area then become?
In closing, I do not believe we should pass this bill. I do not have
faith that the studies behind Yucca are safe and complete, and I do not
have faith that the project can be carried out safely and effectively.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from West
Virginia (Mr. Rahall), the ranking member of the Committee on
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts
(Mr. Markey) for yielding me the time.
I want to commend the leadership of two of our colleagues from the
State of Nevada on this important issue, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr.
Gibbons), a member of our Committee on Resources, and the gentlewoman
from Nevada (Ms. Berkley), who is a very valuable member of our
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
There are a number of reasons, Mr. Speaker, for opposing the pending
resolution, but it boils down to this. There is no rock-ribbed, iron-
clad, copper-riveted guarantee that the interment of high-level nuclear
waste at Yucca Mountain would be the safest course of action over both
the near- and long-term.
It is no secret that there is a multitude of scientific questions
regarding this site, and I am sure all those questions have been gone
into by previous speakers, but the GAO report noted that there are
about 300 such questions and concluded that this site approval is
There is one very important reason that I would like to mention that
I do not believe has been mentioned thus far in this debate as an
additional reason for opposing the pending resolution, and that is that
Yucca Mountain is located within the aboriginal area of the western
Shoshone Indian Nation. The mountain is sacred to them and it holds a
powerful spiritual energy for two Indian tribes in particular.
In fact, the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863 explicitly stated that this
area belonged to the Shoshone. Yet in arrogance, and that is what it
is, arrogance, this administration has determined that this particular
sacred site is a pretty good place to put a nuclear waste repository.
That is desecration, plain and simple. It is desecration to the
Shoshone Indian Nation. Whether or not my colleagues understand the
religion of these people, whether or not my colleagues subscribe to it,
know this: Dumping nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is akin to dumping
nuclear waste at your own house of worship.
I urge the defeat of the pending resolution.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to
just tell the gentleman that that was a beautiful statement.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from the State of
California (Ms. Lee).
Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this
time, and I also want to commend the gentleman from Massachusetts for
his leadership, as well as the gentlewoman from Nevada for really
raising the very dangerous implications of what we are doing today, and
I rise in strong opposition to H. J. Res. 87.
Now, this resolution, as we have heard today, would send 77 tons of
nuclear waste across our Nation's highways, through our streets, and
past our homes. Every hour of every day for the next three decades,
trucks and railcars full of radioactive waste would be rolling past.
Every mile along the way they would be exposed to the risk of both
terrorists and simple accidents. This is very, very scary. This cannot
be the answer.
We must seek out scientifically sound mechanisms to store and treat
existing nuclear waste and we must shift to a safer energy technology.
We cannot keep producing nuclear waste that we clearly cannot manage
Nuclear waste cannot continue to proliferate. Transporting tons of
waste to Yucca Mountain will not eliminate the piles of waste sitting
at reactor sites across the country. It will barely make a dent in them
for years to come. Instead, it will expand our risk every mile
Finally, transportation aside, Yucca Mountain is not the solution.
With threats of earthquakes and groundwater contamination, it is an
environmental disaster waiting to happen. I urge my colleagues to
oppose this resolution.
I want to again thank the gentleman from Massachusetts and the
gentlewoman from Nevada for making sure that we are fully aware of the
implications of what we are doing today.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from
Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar).
(Mr. OBERSTAR asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this
time, and I rise in opposition to the Yucca Mountain Repository Site
Our Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure just recently had
a hearing on this issue. It was clear from the hearing there are too
many uncertainties, too many unresolved issues, and the risks are too
high for us to support this resolution.
This is not the first time, this is the second time around on this
issue of transporting nuclear waste. And our committee addressed this
issue in 1982 during the consideration of the surface transportation
bill when there was an amendment to prohibit the transportation of
nuclear waste through major urban areas. What about the folks in the
rural areas? They should be exposed because people in the urban areas
should not be? We defeated the measure.
In 1987, the same group that is telling us that Yucca Mountain is a
great place came to us in northern Minnesota saying it was a great
place to locate nuclear waste at the headwaters of the Great Lakes.
One-fifth of all the fresh water on the face of the Earth, and they
wanted to deposit this most toxic substance known to mankind right
there so we could poison one-fifth of the water. It was the worst
possible place then, and Yucca Mountain is the second worst possible
The General Accounting Office submitted to our committee a report
showing that there are 293 scientific issues and technical questions
not yet resolved that have to be answered before the DOE could even
apply for a license. This is not the time. We have plenty of time. It
will not be until 2006 before they are even ready to submit an
application. Let us defeat this now and give it more substantive
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.J. Res. 84, the Yucca Mountain
Repository Site Approval Act, which authorizes the development of a
nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. As was made clear
during a joint hearing of the Subcommittees on Railroads and Highways
and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
there are too many uncertainties, too many unresolved issues--and the
risks are simply too high--for me to support this resolution.
At the hearing, we heard a great deal of evidence about the failures
of the Yucca Mountain proposal. We learned that the Department of
Energy (``DOE''), which was supposed to study the environmental effects
of transporting nuclear waste from 131 sites around the country,
included only 77 sites in its final environmental impact statement for
Yucca Mountain. In other words, DOE omitted any evaluation of 54
nuclear waste sites--or 41 percent of the nuclear waste sites it was
supposed to study--from its analysis.
In addition, the General Accounting Office issued a report just this
past December that noted 293 outstanding scientific and technical
questions that must be resolved before DOE can even apply for a license
for the Yucca Mountain site. Bechtel, DOE's own contractor, has stated
that DOE would not be in a position to submit a license application for
Yucca Mountain until 2006.
Some of the most troubling aspects of the Yucca Mountain project are
the uncertainties surrounding the transportation of nuclear waste
across the country. The method and routes for transporting all this
spent fuel from 131 sites around the country have not yet been
determined. There are proposals; there are ideas about how to best ship
the spent nuclear fuel, but there is no definitive plan for its
transportation. What we do know is that this highly toxic material will
be shipped over our Nation's highways, railways, and waterways, and
will most likely travel through more than 40 states and the District of
Columbia. And we know that, regardless of the specific routes
ultimately chosen, this nuclear waste will be shipped through our
communities in close proximity to millions of people.
Yet, we are told simply to accept the fact that by the time this fuel
is ready to be shipped, the Administration will have figured out an
acceptable plan for shipping it. Mr. Speaker, I submit that such
important issues should be explored and decided before we chose a
nuclear waste depository--before we agree to ship nuclear waste through
out cities and towns and across our lakes and rivers.
Proponents of the Yucca Mountain site point to the safety record in
transporting nuclear waste over the past 35 years. But what they don't
say is that there have been, on average, just over 90 such shipments
each year, mostly by truck. If we were to transport the 46,000 tons of
materials now being stored around the Nation, as well as some of the
additional nuclear waste that will be generated before the Yucca
Mountain site reaches capacity, it would require approximately 2,800
cross-country truck movements each year for 38 years.
The Administration envisions that most of the shipments will be by
rail. But there is currently no railroad to the Yucca Mountain site.
Further, many of the nuclear sites where waste is currently stored are
not directly connected to a railroad. In addition, there are no federal
regulations that govern the routing of these shipments by rail.
Tellingly, the railroads disagree with DOE over the safest way to
ship this spent nuclear fuel. The railroads believe that dedicated
trains are the safest way to move this material. First, dedicated
trains do not require any switching of the railcars. Switching
increases the handling of railcars and thereby increases the risk of an
accident. Second, the disparity between the weight in the railcars
carrying the nuclear waste and the railcars carrying other freight in a
mixed freight train may cause instabilities that could lead to a
derailment. Third, dedicated trains are necessary for the train to be
equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes. These brakes
provide greater safety through advanced braking capabilities and an
advanced communications system that alerts the crew of the condition of
the train's wheels.
DOE's regulations, however, call for spent fuel casks to be shipped
in mixed general freight trains. Unfortunately, DOE's regulations
appear to be ``market driven'' in that mixed freight trains are cheaper
than dedicated trains. I would submit that the safe transportation of
these highly toxic materials should take precedence over making a buck.
At the subcommittee hearing, many of my colleagues on the
Transportation Committee voiced a great deal of concern over the
possibility of a train accident similar to the one in the Baltimore
rail tunnel last July that burned for three days with temperatures
rising above 1,500 degrees F. That is higher than the temperature that
the spent fuel casks are designed to withstand. If a single rail cask
with spent nuclear fuel had been on-board that train, it could have
released enough radiation to contaminate a 32 square mile area. It
would have cost nearly $14 billion to clean up such a catastrophic
accident if it had involved nuclear waste. What is shocking is that the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (``NRC'') has not done any tests on the
stability of the casks in a similar scenario. The tests they have done
assumed a fire burning at 1,475 degrees F for 30 minutes. We now know
first-hand that fires from such a train accident can extend far beyond
the NRC's assumptions.
Terrorism also poses a significant threat to any safe transportation
of spent nuclear fuel. Whether transported by truck, rail, or barge,
these shipments will be slow moving and could potentially be the target
of a terrorist attack. We simply cannot afford to short-change the real
and pressing security concerns inherent with the transportation of this
fuel. While the casks are designed to withstand a great deal of damage,
some of the sophisticated weapons available today could penetrate them.
The subcommittee hearing brought to light a whole host of issues
surrounding the transportation of nuclear waste material that should be
addressed before we accept any plan to ship spent nuclear fuel across
the country. Unfortunately, the Administration has elected to force the
issue before all these concerns can be sufficiently addressed. The
Nuclear Waste Policy Act states that the President's recommendation
starts a process that leads ultimately to the Congress having to accept
or override a veto by the Governor of the State of Nevada. I believe we
should sustain Governor Guinn's veto.
It may be hard to accept the consequences of sustaining the veto, but
not as hard as making the wrong decision on this critical national
security and transportation safety issue.
I urge my colleagues to oppose H.J. Res. 84.
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from
Michigan (Mr. Knollenberg).
Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me
this time, and I rise in very strong support of H.J. Res. 87, a
resolution to approve the site of Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
I am pleased we are finally at this step in this long process. We
know that something must be done with the thousands of tons of
radioactive fuel currently sitting in spent fuel pools across the
country. Billions of dollars and multiple studies later, we know Yucca
Mountain is the place to put it. It is safe and suitable.
It is a simple fact that to get nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain we
are going to have to move it, move it from many nuclear power plants
across the country. Opponents to Yucca Mountain have spun tall tales of
the dangers of sending nuclear waste through our hometowns on the way
to Nevada. Mr. Speaker, these arguments are nothing but a red herring.
A wise man once said everyone was entitled to their own opinion but
that everyone was entitled to only one set of facts, and, Mr. Speaker,
we have the facts on our side. Let me assure my colleagues that the
transport of spent fuel along the Nation's highways and railways is
safe. Over the last 30 years, as we have heard, more than 2,700
shipments of spent nuclear fuel have taken place, traveling more than
1.7 million miles, and they have taken place without a single release
of radioactive material harmful to the public or the environment.
The Federal Government takes numerous precautions when transporting
nuclear materials, such as routing, security, tracking of progress,
coordination with State officials, and any emergency preparedness
training that is needed for State and local responders. The details of
these precautions, most of which are highly classified, are very
Certainly, shipping nuclear waste has the inherent risk of accident
or attack, but that risk was there for the last 30 years as well and it
will be there as long as we ship any nuclear waste. The far greater
risk, in my mind, is to leave that waste in our backyards, on our lake
shores, and in our communities in the 39 States where it currently is
For years, I have worked with my colleagues in the House to ensure we
address the issue of nuclear waste in an honest and professional way.
It is honest to say we can ship the waste safely because we have done
it and will continue to do it. In fact, shipments are likely taking
place right now as we speak. Our record on transporting nuclear waste
is not an argument against Yucca Mountain, indeed it speaks strongly in
favor of it.
Mr. Speaker, the facts back it up. I strongly urge all my colleagues
to vote for a permanent repository for high level radioactive waste and
spent nuclear fuel. Support, I repeat, support this move.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 3\1/2\ minutes.
A congressional expert is an oxymoron. There is no such thing.
Congressmen are only experts compared to other Congressmen. They are
not experts compared to real experts in any field.
Here, what we have is a decision made by congressional experts, us,
to pick Nevada because they have the smallest delegation. That is why
it happened. And now, unsurprisingly, there are 293 unresolved
environmental issues related to a group of Congressmen picking the site
to bury all nuclear waste in the United States for the next 10,000
years. Now, Members of Congress are different in many ways, but one of
the things they pretty much share in common is a very limited
scientific background, and so it is no surprise that all of these
issues remain unresolved.
Now, what do we have on our hands, then? We have a thermonuclear
Ponzi game. The generation that in fact enjoyed the benefits of nuclear
power, and by the way there has not been a new nuclear power plant
ordered successfully in the United States since 1974, we are coming up
to the 30th anniversary, wants to pass on the risks to the next
generation. It's a Ponzi game. We are dumping it on the next
generation. Let them figure out what the environmental health and
safety problems are. We are getting it off our hands right now. We are
Now, what is the complication? Well, since September 11, in addition
to all those environmental issues, we have the problem now of al Qaeda.
Now, what have we learned in the caves and the computers of
Afghanistan? What we have learned is that al Qaeda has placed nuclear
at the very top of their terrorist targets. And so what we know is that
the security that is going to have to be placed around the
transportation of all of this nuclear waste must be much higher than
anyone anticipated before September 11.
Have we had the hearings on that subject? Have we determined what the
cost of that might be?
Here is what we also know. There have been two major rail accidents
in the United States over the last 3 weeks. Now, what if it was a
nuclear waste shipment? And what if the train was deliberately derailed
by al Qaeda in some small town or city across the United States; and
then, with conventional weapons attached to the nuclear waste, a dirty
bomb was exploded? Is that possible? Well, post September 11, we know
that they arrive in very large numbers, 20; they are very technically
sophisticated; they are suicidal, and they have the technical capacity
to be able to execute little drills like that.
So it seems to me before we begin the process of putting a trainload
or a truckload of nuclear waste on the road every 4 hours for the next
24 years, that we have a responsibility to answer these questions. But
because the nuclear industry and a pro-nuclear Bush administration just
wants this issue to move so fast down the track that these questions do
not get answered. We will not have that debate here in Congress. And
that is as wrong as abandoning the intergenerational responsibility
that we have to the next generation of Americans that did not create
this nuclear waste but will run the risk of all of the dangers inherent
in storing it in Nevada and transporting it on the roads and railways
of this country.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to yield 3 minutes to the
gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Callahan), the distinguished cardinal from
the Committee on Appropriations, the chairman of the Subcommittee on
Energy and Water Development, who, unfortunately for all of us, has
announced his retirement from Congress this year and whom we will all
(Mr. CALLAHAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this
time and for his kind words.
And to the gentleman from Massachusetts, let me tell him that we all
know he is one of the most eloquent Members of this House. He always
makes his points and makes them so eloquently. But I would like to
remind him that the Ponzi scheme started in Massachusetts.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CALLAHAN. I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I would advise the gentleman that it started
in my district, which is why I am an expert.
Mr. CALLAHAN. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker, I understand that.
And the gentleman also mentioned earlier in the well of the House
today that one of the reasons we are here debating this issue today is
because of the ineffectiveness and the smallness of the Nevada
delegation. The gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons) and the gentlewoman
from Nevada (Ms. Berkley) are two of the most articulate, effective
Members of this body. And the very fact that they are short in numbers
does not at all forgive the fact that they are very effective and
outstanding Members of this body.
I would also like to remind the gentleman from Massachusetts that the
last time I checked this same issue passed the Senate of the United
States. And if I am not mistaken, the State of Massachusetts has two
Senators and the people from Nevada have two Senators, an exact parity,
at least in the Senate.
So the fact that this project wound up in Nevada had nothing to do
with either the ineffectiveness or the smallness of the delegation, but
rather out of scientific knowledge that this was the right direction to
The Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development has already
appropriated over the last 12 years nearly $8 billion to ensure that
this site is the safest site in the world in which to perform this
storage. So there is no doubt in my mind, and I have visited the
facility and I encourage the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey)
to visit and see for himself that these products are going to be stored
in such a safe manner that we are not talking about any danger to the
citizens of Nevada, or anywhere else.
It is going to be a safe facility because of the $8 billion we have
already spent. Besides that, we are probably going to have to spend
another $8 billion in the next 5 years to make further absolutely
certain that it is safe with respect to the deficiency of the 293
indications that the gentleman says we have last year. And I would like
to secure the gentleman's commitment this year, if the gentleman will
vote for an appropriation, I will give them the money to do these 293
studies. But, instead, last year when President Bush sent the request
over for the additional money to do the additional studies, when it got
to the Senate, a member of the Senate from Nevada reduced the
appropriation, negating the possibility that we would be able to
fulfill all of the new studies.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage all Members to join with me this year in
appropriating a sufficient amount of money to make absolutely sure that
all of the studies are going to be fulfilled. I am certain that the
studies will prove that we are right, and this resolution, in my
opinion, should pass.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 11 minutes to the gentleman from
Nevada (Mr. Gibbons).
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman
from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons).
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlemen for yielding me this
Mr. Speaker, I come to this body to speak on the floor to make one
final plea that we consider a safer, more cost-effective solution to
the disposal of our Nation's high level nuclear waste than simply
burying it in a hole in the high desert mountains in the State of
Nevada, my home district.
Just last year, I urged Members and the public to review a GAO report
which called the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain project ``a
failed scientific process.'' The GAO's independent, highly critical
study of the Yucca Mountain project should be enough to shine the light
even through the thickest nuclear industry smoke screen. And now,
almost 5.5 years after I brought this issue to our attention, I implore
this body and the DOE to abandon this misguided Yucca Mountain project.
Consider the following: Is Yucca Mountain suitable for storage? Just
listen to the proponents of the Yucca Mountain project. Time and again
they will tell us the number of years and the billions of dollars that
they have spent by this government to move this process forward is
suitable for making this decision. We will hear it throughout today's
debate, and we have heard it throughout today's debate. But this
argument is flawed, as is the DOE policy. Spend all we want, we cannot
make a volcanic, seismically active mountain geologically sound.
Whether it is $8 billion, $10 billion, $20 billion, $100 billion, there
will be earthquakes, water will percolate through the mountain, and
corrosion of these casks will occur.
Where is our sense of fiscal discipline in this body? Where is our
restraint? Why are we willing to just throw our arms up in the air and
conclude, well, we have already spent billions of dollars, so I guess
we should just proceed? Where are my colleagues who are advocates for
States' rights, local control and fiscal discipline?
Nevada is currently fighting the DOE in Federal court to protect our
water rights. That may not mean much to Members east of the
Mississippi, but out West, water is very hard to come by.
For local control, what are our governors going to do the first day
rigs and railcars start traveling through Members' States carrying
thousands of tons of high level nuclear waste? I think I have a pretty
good idea. Ask the governor of the State of South Carolina.
The DOE and the nuclear industry tells us that bringing up accidents
is simply a scare tactic. But wait, it was not Nevada, it was the DOE
that said we should expect somewhere around 400 accidents during the 38
years of transportation that this waste must cross America. We did not
bring it up. Nevada did not bring it up. We did not arbitrarily come up
with those numbers; the DOE did.
What will a State trooper, an off-duty fireman, an EMT do when they
are required to be the first to respond to a nuclear waste accident?
Before Members vote today, perhaps they should talk to them. Ask them,
and they will probably say they do not know because nobody is trained
or prepared to deal with an accident on a highway dealing with this
high level nuclear waste.
The DOE begs us to consider the fact that they have safely
transported waste in the past without incident. Well, maybe there have
been no major accidents where radioactive materials were released, at
least not yet. But add up every single shipment of waste thus far, and
we do not even come up to within 1 percent of the total amount of waste
shipments that will be put on our streets, near our homes and
communities, and probably through the communities of our constituents
in the years to come.
If the waste is not coming through our population centers by truck,
it will come by train. Let me remind Members of some of the recent
stories involving train accidents around this country. We can see Los
Angeles Times, 260 People Injured, 2 Dead; Baltimore, Toxic Cargo Shuts
the City Down, Firefighters Stymied, on and on the stories continue.
I ask Members to look at page A8 in today's Los Angeles Times which
indicates that storage of waste at Yucca Mountain is not safe. It will
leak. What does this policy that we have before us today as a Nation
say? It would lead us to believe that the world has no innovation and
no technology, and that we do not have scientific and medical
achievements capable of dealing with nuclear waste. We find ourselves
cemented by a DOE policy that tells us the best our Nation can do or
that our Nation has to offer for high level nuclear waste storage is
simply to dig a hole and bury it in the ground and walk away. This,
while nations across the world are advancing technologies in processing
and recycling this waste.
We have the ability in this country to reduce the amount of waste, to
lower its toxicity, to eliminate plutonium, and make the waste
completely nonproliferative, but not with this current policy. All we
want to do, according to this policy, is hollow out a mountain, fill it
with waste and walk away. I am totally unimpressed.
Another question. What problem do we solve by moving forward with the
Yucca Mountain project? The answer, none. As a matter of fact, we
create one. If we look at this chart, there are 131 locations of
nuclear waste around this country. Moving forward when we create Yucca
Mountain with this policy, what are we going to have? We are going to
have 132 sites in this country where nuclear waste is stored, one
additional one in southern Nevada. That is right. Look at this map.
There are 132 sites for nuclear waste. We do not, we will not, we
cannot remove the waste from all of these States.
Mr. Speaker, spent fuel rods have by requirement to sit in a cooling
pond for a minimum of 5 years before they can be shipped. The DOE myth
is that we are relieving these reactors of on-site storage, and we are
somehow preventing the possibility of a terrorist attack on one of
these 131 sites. That logic does not fly. All we are doing is going
from 131 project sites to 132.
Mr. Speaker, let us assume for a moment that there would be no
accidents, no train derailments, no tracks to jackknife over a bridge
or some waterway, not one accident to occur in 38 years. Not likely,
but we will pretend, anyway, that it may happen. What about the
terrorists? Are we not currently preparing ourselves to spend billions
of dollars on homeland defense? Are we not briefed every day by Federal
officials as to the potential threats
we face within our borders? Americans are getting a civics lesson every
day in what a credible threat means.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence spoke out about
terrorist threats within the United States. He said the terrorists are
here in high numbers and ready and capable of attacking the United
States. That begs the question, what next? What exactly is the al Qaeda
craving next? According to CIA Director George Tenet, it is a low tech
nuclear device or what has been deemed a dirty bomb. I quote from Mr.
Tenet: ``We believe that bin Laden was seeking to acquire or develop a
nuclear device. Al Qaeda may be pursuing a radioactive dispersal
device, what some call a dirty bomb.''
Just last month CNN reported that Abu Zubaydah, the most senior al
Qaeda leader in the United States, has told investigators that
terrorists were producing a radiological weapon, a dirty bomb, and know
how to use it.
Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about today is placing tens of
thousands of dirty bombs on our roads and railways through 703 counties
in 44 States. This map shows where the routes are going to go through
the various States. If a Member's State is not one of the three,
Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, then that Member's State is
going to be affected by the transportation of nuclear waste.
There are terrorists in this country; and tragically, we have
witnessed the amount of destruction they are willing to bring. Yet we
are to believe that every one of these nuclear shipments will be safe
for the next 4 decades, that they will be completely safe from any
potential foreign or domestic terrorist attack.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope so. After all, one does not have to be
a trained terrorist to jump a train carrying high level nuclear waste.
Just a few weeks ago a train carrying high level nuclear waste was
boarded by one or two escaped inmates from a North Carolina prison who
were trying to escape from an inmate work program. Well, imagine if
these train jumpers happen to be more than common day criminals trying
to evade their captors. What if they were terrorists and had explosives
with them? Yet even though this did occur and it can and will occur
again, we are charged with this bill's proponents of presenting nothing
but scare tactics.
Just as the DOE cannot spend Yucca Mountain into making it
geologically sound, the nuclear energy industry cannot spin the facts
into a myth. The nuclear power industry has contributed $13.8 million
to Federal candidates during the 2000 election cycle. They have spent
$25 million in just 1 year lobbying Congress on this issue, although
many minds may not change, nor will the facts. According to DOE, on-
site dry cask storage can continue for the next 100 years.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act demands that the Yucca Mountain be
deemed geologically suitable. As someone who holds a master's degree in
geology, let me say that it is not, it cannot, and it never will be
geologically suitable as required by the act, no matter how many
billions we try to put into it.
If Members do not take my word for it or Nevada's word for it, take
their word for it and consider what the other side has said. The DOE,
the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Congressional
Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board have all said that the technical
basis for projecting the long-term performance and the project's base
case repository design has critical weaknesses.
They further said that the DOE has not presented a clear and
persuasive rationale for going forward with the site recommendation.
We have numerous statements that support this concept about the
weakness of their case. Mr. Speaker, we can and we could do much better
than this. We can and we should offer a more viable and safe and cost
efficient solution to this problem. We can and we should continue to
support nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. But you do not
need one just to have the other. Yucca Mountain is not safe.
I, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion would say that many of my colleagues
have never looked their constituents in the eye on this issue. But I
represent the dairy farmer in the Armagosa Valley that is near Yucca
Mountain, and I represent the alfalfa farmers that are there as well.
They are watching today. I want them to know that we are fighting for
them against this Yucca Mountain project.
Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). The Chair must remind Members
to avoid improper references to the Senate, such as quotations of
Members of the Senate other than in actual legislative history on the
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I include for the Record a letter
from Edward C. Sullivan, the President of the Building and Construction
Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, in support of H.J. Res. 87.
Building and Construction Trades Department, American
Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial
Washington, DC, May 6, 2002.
Dear Representative: On behalf of the Building and
Construction Trades Department and our affiliated unions, I
am writing to ask you to support House Joint Resolution 87,
the Yucca Mountain Resolution, because it is in the best
interest of our nation, our citizens and our workers.
Our Nation needs a safe, stable and scientifically feasible
program for storing used nuclear fuel. The Yucca Mountain
location has been thoroughly examined for over 20 years at a
cost of $7 billion and has met or exceeded all environmental
and scientific standards for storage. It is located on
federal land in a remote, secure area.
Nuclear energy has proven to be a clean, safe and reliable
source of electricity for nearly half a century. Today, one
of every five homes, businesses and farms receives
electricity generated by a nuclear plant.
Since the 1970's growth in the use of nuclear energy has
reduced the need for foreign oil in the electricity sector
and saved consumers $81 billion in payments for imported oil.
But, unless we can begin the process of safe storage of spent
nuclear fuel, the future of nuclear energy is uncertain.
Yucca Mountain provides a unique public-private partnership
with the federal government appropriately shouldering the
obligation to manage used material while electricity
consumers have provided the $18 billion cost to pay for this
Finally, this issue is a very important jobs issue. Many
highly skilled Building Trades members in your state will
benefit from passage of this resolution. If the process set
forward by the passage of this resolution was to stop, many
good family wage jobs would disappear and a great number of
jobs would never be created.
I urge you to support this resolution and permit this
process to go forward.
Edward C. Sullivan,
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the
distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Kirk).
Mr. KIRK. Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Nuclear Fuel Safety Caucus
here in the Congress, I would remind everyone that in the shuttered
Zion nuclear power plant just 100 yards from Lake Michigan lies a
thousand tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste stored next to Lake
Michigan. This is not unique to my district. The Great Lakes have
another 31 coastline sites where nuclear waste is stored.
Twenty percent of the world's fresh water is found in the Great
Lakes. Thirty million Americans depend on the Great Lakes for fresh
water. Not one scientist or scientific study claims that storing
nuclear waste next to the world's largest supply of fresh water is
environmentally sound. Moving nuclear waste from 131 temporary storage
sites around the Nation to one secure location where America has
already tested dozens of nuclear weapons is the goal of the Nuclear
Fuel Safety Caucus. We must move nuclear waste from the Great Lakes.
Why Yucca Mountain? Because without Yucca Mountain, we would have to
construct 131 permanent storage facilities for nuclear waste in 39
different States. These storage facilities are close to groundwater,
earthquake zones and in close proximity to major cities, including San
Francisco, Boston, New York and Chicago. Without Yucca Mountain, 161
million Americans would have to live their entire lives within 75 miles
of a nuclear waste site.
And then there is the cost. According to the government's own study,
the cost of building 131 permanent storage sites would be over $61
billion. To cover this, the Federal Government would have to borrow
from Social Security or raise taxes. Perhaps we could reinstitute the
death tax, but we would
have to double it to pay for the cost. And that would not cover the
lawsuits which would total over $56 billion for reneging on the promise
to provide a nuclear waste storage site.
A vote for this resolution is a vote to protect our Nation from
further terrorist attacks. Removing nuclear waste from 131 sites to a
single repository buried deep inside a mountain range 100 miles from a
population center is much safer from sabotage or terrorism.
I urge the adoption of this resolution. Let us wipe clean the
terrorist shooting gallery of 131 sites located around the country and
vote for this resolution for a secure environmental future.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from
Nevada (Ms. Berkley).
Ms. BERKLEY. I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the debate and I have
to say that I was appalled when one of the speakers said that if we
passed this resolution, Nevada will be able to continue its nuclear
legacy. Nuclear legacy? Nevada does not have a nuclear legacy.
Let me tell you what transpired in the 1950s in the State of Nevada
when there were less than 100,000 people in the entire State. The
Federal Government came to us and said that it was going to do above
ground atomic testing of atomic bombs but that it would be perfectly
safe and that you could watch it, bring your families there, work there
safely. All you had to do was go home and take a shower. So thousands
of people went to work at the Nevada test site. I must say I have
friends that share with me the times that their parents took them up to
the Nevada test site with a picnic lunch and they watched the atomic
bombs going off in the Nevada atmosphere.
Let me tell you what has happened to those Nevada test site workers,
those brave souls who thought that they were doing their duty for their
country, but safely, at the promises and assurances of the Federal
Government. Those Nevada test site workers, if they are not dead, they
are dying. Those people that observed those tests and watched as they
ate their bologna sandwiches, they are dying, too. They are all dying
of unexplained cancers. Those downwinders in Utah and in Nevada who
happened to be caught living downwind of these atomic tests, they are
all dead, too.
It is very difficult for me, after having lived through those
experiences, to believe the Federal Government now when they tell us
that the transportation and storage of 77,000 tons of toxic nuclear
waste in a hole in the Nevada desert is safe. It was not safe then and
it is not safe now.
In addition, we keep hearing about the $7 billion that has already
been spent on site characterization. But if you spend 7 cents or $70
billion, it does not make that site any safer. We are talking about an
area of our country that has seismic activity, volcanic activity. It
has groundwater problems.
If I could direct your attention to a Los Angeles Times article that
appeared today, this is the headline: ``Nuclear Dump Site Will Leak,
Scientists Say.'' The little message underneath the picture says,
``Despite the dry appearance of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear
dump in the Nevada desert, there is water in its environment.
Scientists say that that vulnerability will eventually allow
radioactive material to leak. At issue is only how long.''
Then they point out paragraph after paragraph. The government
officials point out, and I am quoting, two other nuclear sites that
officials--these are government officials--once said would be leak-free
for hundreds or thousands of years: In Pocatello, Idaho and the Hanford
site in eastern Washington. Quote, both are leaking already, and
radioactive material could make its way into groundwater in just 10
years. That is according to a report by the National Research Council.
You are telling me this is sound science? This is what appeared today
in the L.A. Times. It talks about Yucca Mountain.
``About 12.3 million gallons of water flow through the disposal area
per year. Traces of chlorine 36, which is produced only by nuclear
bombs, was recently discovered inside Yucca Mountain.'' That means that
through the groundwater, radioactive material gets into the rocks and
into the groundwater in as little as 40 years. And you are telling me
there is sound science? I do not think so.
I have also heard some of my colleagues say this is really not a
Yucca Mountain vote, this is not a transportation vote, that this is
not really a vote on shipping nuclear waste. Let me beg to differ. This
is the only time we will have to vote on this issue. So do not tell me
this is not a vote on the transportation of nuclear waste across our
country. It is the vote.
I have listened to this debate. There is no doubt, on both sides of
the aisle, we have huge problems. We have a huge problem with nuclear
waste. We have an energy source in this country, nuclear energy, that
produces a dangerous by-product, nuclear waste. This Nation has never
figured out what to do with it. Not any alternative that I have heard
is good enough for the people that I represent and good enough for the
people you represent, too. If we go ahead with this foolhardy plan, we
will never, ever figure out what to do with nuclear waste, because once
Yucca Mountain is filled up, we will still have the exact same problem.
It is time that we take care of that problem and let us take care of it
Mr. Speaker, I include the L.A. Times article for the Record.
The material referred to is as follows:
[From the Los Angeles Times, Wed., May 8, 2002]
Nuclear Dump Site Will Leak, Scientists Say
(By Gary Polankovic)
Yucca Mountain, Nev.--As the Bush administration prepares
its push to win congressional approval for the Yucca Mountain
nuclear waste burial site, scientists agree on one key
conclusion: Yucca Mountain will leak. The question is how
long it will take.
Rising one mile from the desert floor, the mountain looks
as plain and parched as much of the rest of southern Nevada's
Despite the arid appearance there is water here, and even
the scientists who have designed the repository concede that
the mountain's vulnerability to moisture will allow
radioactive material to eventually lead into the environment.
Time is the key. Highly radioactive nuclear waste remains
dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Half of the
plutonium stored in the mountain, for example, will still be
radioactive 380 million years from now.
Just one-millionth of an once of plutonium is enough to
virtually assure cancer in someone who comes in contact with
As Congress considers whether to override Nevada's
opposition to housing nuclear waste here, opponents of the
waste site argue that the Bush administration is pushing
through a flawed solution that will create radioactivity
risks for thousands of years.
Government officials say they have designed a burial site
that will be free of leaks for at least 10,000 years.
Critics, armed with a raft of scientific studies, say that
can't be guaranteed. They point to two other nuclear sites
that officials once had said would be leak-free for hundreds
or thousands of years: the Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory near Pocatello and the Hanford Site
in eastern Washington. Both are leaking already, and
radioactive material could make its way into groundwater in
just 10 years, according to a report by the National Research
Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
Even if a 10,000-year leak-free promise could be
guaranteed, critics of Yucca Mountain say society has a
responsibility to civilizations far in the future not to
expose them to lethal waste that we generate.
But the alternative to putting nuclear waste here is to
leave it accumulating in 131 different places in 39 states,
much closer to people and potentially vulnerable to terrorist
attack, the Department of Energy warns.
The waste piled up around the country comes from nuclear
aircraft carriers and electrical plants, bomb factories and
university labs. Over time, it will emit thousands of times
more radioactivity than was released at Chernobyl and
millions of times more than the Hiroshima bomb.
``There is no more [storage] space, there are deteriorating
storage conditions, and you have the challenge that so much
of it is located near population centers and waterways,''
said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. ``No one believes
you can bring in David Copperfield, wave a wand and it all
``We've tried to take into account as many uncertainties of
the future as can be assessed,'' Abraham said. ``I am
convinced that the site is scientifically suitable--in a
Yucca Mountain is not a done deal yet, but converting this
forlorn peak into the world's first high-level nuclear waste
dump is closer to happening than ever.
President Bush has chosen the site, but Nevada challenged
that decision. Congress is
considering whether to overturn Nevada's veto, and opponents
of the dump acknowledge they probably do not have the votes
to stop it. (A House vote might occur as early as today.) If
the Yucca Mountain plan survives Congress, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission will consider issuing a license, and
the dump could open by 2012.
Experts long ago recognized the need for deep, geological
disposal of radioactive waste, yet it is unknown whether any
system can be devised that could keep highly radioactive
waste isolated for such an immensely long period.
``We nuclear people have made a Faustian bargain with
society,'' said Alvin Weinberg, former director of the Oak
Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where plutonium was
tested for one of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan. ``We
offer an inexhaustible and nonpolluting source of energy, but
we require a level of detail and discipline that we're
unaccustomed to in handling the waste.
``Nobody really knows if we can do this. Trying to project
what's going to happen in thousands of years, tens of
thousands of years, is quite ridiculous,'' Weinberg said.
Today, Yucca Mountain is an island in a desert. It is
surrounded by the Nevada Test Site, where the government once
tested nuclear bombs.
``If you can't put it here, then where can you put it?''
asked Michael D. Voegele, chief scientist for Bechtel-SAIC
Co., the Energy Department's contractor for building the
repository at Yucca Mountain.
But who can say what will be here millions of years from
now when plutonium and other deadly wastes still pack a
wallop? Will it still be a desert? Glaciers advanced and
receded across the planet a dozen times in the last 2 million
years. An inland sea called Lake Bonneville covered much of
Nevada and Utah 12,000 years ago, when humans first arrived.
These technologies are forcing us to address the issue of
how they will affect future generations. This is not an issue
we've faced on this scale before,'' said Lester R. Brown,
president of the Earth Policy Institute. ``We're doing things
with consequences we don't understand.''
Government engineers and scientists have been studying
Yucca Mountain for over 20 years--twice as long as it took to
plan and complete the moon landing--at a cost of $7 billion.
During that time, government officials have changed their
arguments about Yucca Mountain's safety.
Problems began to emerge years ago when tunnels bored deep
into the rock revealed conditions inside were wetter, and the
geology more complex, than initially thought. Those
discoveries are at the center of the controversy today.
Originally, the volcanic ash where the waste would be
entombed was believed to be so tightly compressed that
rainfall could not penetrate. Secretary Abraham said in
February that rainfall would take 1,000 years to make the
800-foot journey through rock to the disposal zone and longer
still before radioactivity could be carried to groundwater.
He does not believe leaks are a significant concern.
Yet inside the mountain, government studies have found that
the rock is laced with fissures, some that move water the way
capillaries carry blood, some that flow like a garden hose.
About 12.3 million gallons of water flow through the 2,500-
acre disposal area per year, government studies show.
Traces of chlorine 36, which is produced only by nuclear
bombs, were recently discovered inside Yucca Mountain. Since
the last nuclear bombs were detonated above ground at the
Nevada Test Site in 1962, the finding indicates rainfall can
carry radioactive material deep into the rock in as little as
Once the presence of water was established, the government
changed plans. The plans now call for double-layer disposal
containers of stainless steel and a nickel-based material
called Alloy 22 to keep the waste isolated. The canisters
will be covered with titanium ``drip shields'' to keep waste
dry. Canisters could be packed close together too, so heat
would boil water and drive away steam.
But engineers do not know yet know how to build a container
that outlasts radioactive waste.
Materials like Alloy 22 haven't been around long enough for
experts to be able to assess how they will perform over
Given all of the uncertainties, some of the nation's
leading experts say President Bush's decision to proceed with
Yucca Mountain is premature.
``There are a lot of issues that remain unresolved that
could affect the safety of humans and the environment,'' said
Allison Macfarlane, a geologist and the director of the Yucca
Mountain project at MIT. ``We should not be in a rush.''
Carnegie Mellon University President Jared L. Cohon said he
is concerned about the integrity of disposal canisters and
how water moves inside the mountain. Cohon chairs the Nuclear
Waste Technical Review Board, an 11-member panel of
independent experts appointed by Congress to review the
Energy Department's work at Yucca Mountain.
That panel concluded in January that the government's
technical case for Yucca Mountain is ``weak to moderate.''
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.
Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the gentlewoman from Nevada's
statement about people dying of cancers because of exposure to tests in
Nevada, above ground testing in the fifties and the sixties, there is
not one scientific study that shows that there is any greater incidence
of cancer in Nevada than anywhere else in this country. That may be an
anecdotal tale, but there is no scientific validity to it.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this joint resolution
which endorses the Department of Energy and the President's finding
that Yucca Mountain is the best choice for a national nuclear waste
depository. As we know, Yucca Mountain is on a Federal nuclear test
site in the Nevada desert that encompasses almost 1,300 square miles,
or an area bigger than the State of Rhode Island. Like Chairman
Callahan and other Members in this House, I have visited this site. I
have been inside the mountain, five miles into it. I have seen it
From a New Jersey perspective, this siting decision is long overdue.
We live in the most densely populated State in the Nation with 49
percent of our power generated by nuclear energy. For many years now,
those wastes have been stored on the grounds of our two nuclear reactor
sites, supposedly on a temporary basis. The time has come for the waste
to be sent to a single national repository as was promised in the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and for which New Jersey taxpayers
have contributed millions of dollars in their energy bills.
Mr. Speaker, I strongly support this resolution. I urge my colleagues
to do so as well.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the
distinguished gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp).
(Mr. WAMP asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. WAMP. Mr. Speaker, I thank the distinguished chairman for
yielding me this time, and I want to bring a little bit of common sense
from the South to this issue. We heard from New Jersey. In the
southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley region, we are
heavily dependent on coal-fired plants. I share the environmentalists'
goal of trying to reduce the emissions of these fossil-fired plants. We
also have in the Tennessee Valley Authority region five nuclear
reactors on-line. They happen to be the most economically efficient
generators of electricity in the TVA system. They are the most
environmentally responsible and clean sources of electricity in the
region. There is only one hurdle in our way of having a clean, safe
alternative to the fossil-fired problem, and that is this waste issue.
This administration, to its credit, has the guts to step up and do
what is necessary to provide the alternative. I would say to my friends
who protest dirty air and then protest Yucca Mountain, you cannot have
it both ways. You cannot eliminate the alternative and then complain
about fossil emissions. You cannot do it unless you want our country to
be totally dependent on the rest of the world for our energy sources,
and we know that sacrifices our freedom.
Mr. Speaker, we have got to do the right thing. I appreciate the
parochial eloquence, defending your own turf, but for the good of our
Nation we have got to place this nuclear waste in a safe repository. My
master's is in common sense. Common sense says you have got to do this
in order to have clean air and clean water into the future and energy
independence for the United States of America. National security hangs
on this decision. This is an important decision and one that is not
easy to make because we respect our friends in Nevada.
We respect our friends in opposition. But this is the right thing to
do for the United States of America for many years to come.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). The gentleman from Louisiana
(Mr. Tauzin) has 8 minutes remaining and the right to close; the
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Markey) has 3 minutes remaining; and the gentleman from Virginia (Mr.
Boucher) has 2 minutes remaining.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the
distinguished gentleman from the great State of California (Mr. Issa).
Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of discussion here today
on a lot of science and a lot of what-ifs, and I am not going to try to
address what has already been said. Rather, what I would like to do is
take what has been said by many of the Members from Nevada and clarify
They say they are putting it here because we have very little
population. Well, for a moment I will agree with that, because over
one-half of all Americans live within 75 miles of high-level nuclear
waste, most of it above ground, none of it ever tested to take a 757
crashing into it. I rise in strong support of the basic concept that we
will get these wastes into an area that will survive that attack and
more. I rise because every day in my district over 200,000 men and
women drive within a few hundred yards of San Onofre Nuclear Power
Plant, not designed as a permanent-storage facility. I ask my
colleagues to consider whether the 10 million people who live within
the downwind hazard of that nuclear facility should be granted some
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.
Mr. Speaker, just so we get the record straight here, this facility
which is being contemplated will only hold 60 percent of all of the
nuclear waste in the United States, military or civilian. It does not
solve the problem.
In addition, all nuclear waste generated at all nuclear power plants
has to sit next to the plant for 5 years anyway in each one of the
States to cool down, so it does not solve that problem either.
In addition, we also have the question of the casks into which they
are going to place the waste. The Department of Energy only has 2 years
of corrosion data to extrapolate out for 10,000 years.
Mr. Speaker, Neil Young used to have a song, ``Rust Never Sleeps.''
And again, we are pushing the envelope, with congressional experts
deciding that we have the answer to where all of this nuclear waste is
going to be stored, in corrodible material and could ultimately leach
out into the mountain, out into the aquifers. Finally, the Mobile
Chernobyl issue, with terrorism now rearing its head, we have not
answered those questions yet. How much will it cost? How safe can we
make the railways, the highways, the byways of our country?
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton), the distinguished chairman of the
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and
(Mr. BARTON of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and
extend his remarks.)
Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, in 1981 and 1982, I was a White
House Fellow in the Department of Energy and served at a very low level
on the task force that developed the recommendations that later became
the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.
Today, I stand on the floor as one of the chief sponsors of this
resolution, along with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Boucher), my
good friend. If the Lord shines upon me, I may be fortunate enough to
live long enough to be alive the day we ship the first shipment of
high-level nuclear waste to the repository, which will probably be
sometime in the year 2015 to 2022. If that happens, I will have spent
almost 40 years of my adult life in some way or the other addressing
I think it is time to send this resolution to the floor of the other
body for a vote so that we can let the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
receive an application from the Department of Energy in the next 2
years about this license application.
The money has been put into the trust fund. The resolution does not
deal with any of the transportation issues; we will deal with those
later. There is absolutely tremendous bipartisan support. The time has
come to stop talking about this and to vote on it. I hope that we vote
in the affirmative at the appropriate time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from
Missouri (Mr. Gephardt), the leader of the Democratic Party of the
(Mr. GEPHARDT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. GEPHARDT. Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge a vote against the Yucca
Mountain approval resolution. I hope this resolution will be turned
I commend the courageous people fighting against it, lead by the
gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley) and Dario Herrera. I am sorry
that the Bush administration went back on its word approving this
untested, dangerous measure.
Whether or not to allow storage and transportation of waste is a
decision with important consequences for people in my district and
across America. It is a fact that scientists are still debating whether
Yucca Mountain is safe. The General Accounting Office a few months ago
said that storing waste at Yucca could infect water supplies and
release deadly toxins into the surrounding air. It cited 293 scientific
questions for which the Federal Government has no answers. Even if we
begin shipping this waste today, we will still have nuclear waste
stored all over this country decades from now.
But my biggest concern is that it makes no sense to have all of this
material traveling across the country by truck and rail. We have seen
just in the last month a number of tragic rail accidents. Even the
Energy Department says that inevitably there will be derailments of
trains headed to Yucca Mountain. I had a train derailment in my
district a year ago in Webster Groves, Missouri, where a whole train
turned over. Luckily, it was only coal; but it was coal that was
spilled a few feet from homes and schools in Webster Groves, Missouri.
The people in Webster Groves in the days since then have said to me,
what if it had not been coal, but nuclear waste? We have no plan, we
have no resources, we have no training for dealing with such a
derailment in St. Louis. We have only one hospital bed in the entire
metropolitan area to treat severe radiation exposure.
This is not a question about isolating the risks. Yucca Mountain, in
reality, simply spreads it around.
I know there is no perfect solution, but we can begin now to invest
in better ways to store waste at the sites we currently use.
Authorities in Pennsylvania have an approach that puts an emphasis on
technology and innovation, an approach that avoids having to cart and
haul this waste all the way across the United States. It puts the waste
in reinforced facilities. It benefits people in Pennsylvania, and it
benefits all Americans.
I simply think, in conclusion, that science and logic is on the side
of leaving this hazardous material on site until we find a better
solution. I hope Yucca Mountain will be rejected.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Tauzin)
has 5\1/2\ minutes remaining; the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr.
Markey) has 1 minute remaining; and the gentleman from Virginia (Mr.
Boucher) has 2 minutes remaining.
Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of closing on our side, I
yield myself the 2 remaining minutes.
Mr. Speaker, the measure before us moves the process forward and
enables the taking of the next step in evaluating the Yucca Mountain
site. We have no realistic alternative to a secure, central repository
for the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste. The waste is now
stored at 72 dispersed reactor sites around the Nation. Leaving the
waste in its current storage poses threats, both to the environment and
to national security. Permanent dry-cask storage at these 72 sites is
not a realistic alternative to a central storage facility.
The resolution before the House enables the taking of the next
essential step in achieving the secure central storage, which is the
best option before the country at this time. After the resolution
passes, construction at the site could not begin until the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission conducts a thorough scientific and technical
analysis and issues a construction license.
I urge that the resolution before the House be approved so that the
NRC can begin its work, so that the scientific and technical studies
can go forward, and so that the Nation's best option, a
secure, central repository for high-level nuclear waste, can be
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time to
once again state that we are at a historic juncture, that we should not
be making this decision with 293 unresolved environmental issues. We
owe the American public, we owe the next generation a higher standard
of care than rushing to this decision today.
Mr. Speaker, I yield the final time remaining to the gentlewoman from
Nevada (Ms. Berkley), the heroine who has been championing this issue
to protect her people.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from
Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) for having done a stellar job over the last
20 years to protect the people, not only in my own home State, but in
the entire United States of America.
I have been profoundly involved with this issue for the last 20
years, ever since it was passed in 1982. This is a horrible piece of
legislation. It is a horrible idea. Even if Yucca Mountain is passed,
we still will not have solved a very serious problem in our Nation, and
that is what we will do with the nuclear waste for generations to come.
Mr. Speaker, I urge us, before we spend billions of dollars more, to
take this money, put it into research and development for renewable
energy sources. Let us harness the sun, let us harness the wind,
hydrocells, geothermal; and let us truly become energy independent,
away from foreign oil sources and away from an energy source that
produces a by-product that is so deadly that none of us, none of us
want it in our backyard.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, with the consent of my colleagues, I would
like to do what I think is the fair thing to do at this point, and that
is to yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Gibbons),
our friend, for an opportunity to close his arguments on behalf of the
State that he loves so dearly and represents here in the Congress.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for his generous use
of time and for allowing me to make a few final remarks as we close
this debate on one of the most important issues that the State of
Nevada has faced over 20 years.
Mr. Speaker, there are no nuclear generating facilities in Nevada. If
we looked at all of the debris as a result of the nuclear testing that
Nevada contributed as its share of obligation to this country, the
national security of this country for 20 years or decades, it is less
than 4 tons. We are going to be sending 77,000 tons of the most deadly,
toxic substance known to man to be stored in the State of Nevada for
thousands of years, and we have yet to approve the science that says
that Yucca Mountain is either qualified or suitable to store this
nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain.
We have talked about the science. We have talked about the dangers.
We have talked about the continual expenditure of billions of dollars
trying to make that square peg fit a round hole. Mr. Speaker, it is not
going to happen. There is no way that the geology of Yucca Mountain
will ever meet the requirements of the law that was passed in 1982 and
amended in 1987.
We have taken our science and shown that Yucca Mountain is not
suitable. They are required now to have engineered barriers just so
they can make the excuse, well, if the geology does not work, we will
engineer it to be safe. If that is the case, they can engineer it to be
safe in any place in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution, and urge
all of my colleagues to oppose it.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, I respect my friends, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr.
Gibbons) and the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley), and I
appreciate the fight they are making on the floor today. I understand
their concerns for their home State and for this decision. Outside of
that, the opposition to this resolution basically comes from those who
oppose nuclear energy.
When we ask those Members what other energy would they support, we
get some strange answers. If we suggest coal, they say, oh, coal can be
pretty dirty, you know. You have to scrub it. Even if you scrub it, it
produces CO2 and that may contribute to global warming, and
golly, we had better not burn coal in America, even though 40 percent
of our electricity comes from coal.
Or we might say, would you support oil and gas development? And they
say, no, wait a minute, the land is too pristine, and certainly not off
my coast. Go do it in Louisiana, maybe, but do not do it anywhere else,
please. Certainly do not do it in my State, off my coast or in my
national wildlife preserve, even though you are willing to do it in
your national wildlife preserves in Louisiana with no consequences,
and, in fact, with good consequences. They do not like that. They do
not like oil and gas.
We ask, what about refineries for gasoline, for electric generation
facilities? The answer is, not in my backyard. If you are ready to do
it in somebody else's backyard, hopefully out of this country somewhere
else and ship it in over here, but for heaven's sake do not build a
plant in America, not where I live. We would rather run out. We would
rather go through a California crisis than authorize another refinery
or another electric generation plant in our backyard.
So we ask them about nuclear. We say, well, nuclear is pretty clean.
Nuclear plants produce 20 percent of the Nation's electricity, a
critical component of the Nation's energy supplies. It is pretty clean,
you know. It does not produce all the emissions we are concerned about
with global warming, or the emissions we have to regulate with coal-
fired plants, or gas, or even oil-fired plants. What about nuclear?
They say, oh, but wait, you do not have a plan to deal with the
waste, so do not build any more nuclear plants until you settle that
waste issue. That is the tail wagging the dog. Unless you settle that
waste issue, do not dare license another nuclear plant, and certainly
not in my backyard, by the way.
So we wonder what kind of energy supplies do these Members support. I
think the answer is pretty clear. They would like us to get it all from
the sun, I suppose, or they would like us to get it from winds,
provided we do not hurt any birds in the context of getting wind power
And they certainly would like us to get it from somebody else,
because that is what is happening in America. Sixty percent, 60 percent
now of every gallon of gasoline we burn in this country comes from some
other country. And check the countries, check where it is coming from.
Forty percent of the reformulated gas comes from Venezuela right now,
where there is a pretty bad problem going on; Venezuela, which rescued
us from the last oil embargo, where there are some pretty bad problems
Check where else it is coming from, countries like Iran, Iraq,
countries which are teaching their children to hate us and to come to
this country and take our planes and crash them into our buildings in
suicide attempts. Those are reliable friends. Those are reliable
sources for energy in America. Boy, that is real national security.
So after 20 years, after 20 years of an effort that started in 1982,
after billions of dollars of expenditure, after scientific research
that even tested the effects of a glaciated age in Nevada to make sure
that this was the proper site to bring those nuclear wastes to
permanent storage, we come to this point where we are about near the
If we can push this process one more step, if the scientists can
answer the last questions that remain, we can settle the waste issue.
Guess what, all these folks say, for heaven's sakes, do not settle the
waste issue. Mr. Speaker, today is a chance to move it one inch closer
to the final line where we settle the waste issue and we help secure
America. It is time to vote yes for this country for a change.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to House Joint
Resolution 87. President Bush's decision to ship 77,000 tons of nuclear
waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada is wrong. This attempt to force
Congress to adopt an ill-conceived, premature proposal is irresponsible
and dangerous. It is our duty to protect those we serve from a proposal
that will surely threaten our national security and the lives of
American families in their own homes and communities.
At a time of heightened security and terrorist threats, this
Administration is proposing to ship
tens and thousands of highly radioactive and deadly materials through
our towns and neighborhood. And as fast as they get the waste out of
the plants, nuclear facilities will ramp up production, create more
waste and start shipping it to Nevada--right through our towns once
again. If Congress passes this resolution and overrides the authority
of Nevada's governor, millions of American lives will be in danger. The
President's Yucca Mountain proposal would ship radioactive waste to
Yucca Mountain from nuclear power plants through 43 states. Nearly 161
million people live within 75 miles of those routes. I find it
unconscionable that the Bush Administration would hastily force us to
accept this proposed solution. The fact is that we need more time, not
only to find a safe place to store the waste, but time to figure out
ways to treat it and make it less dangerous.
I believe we should implement a plan that would remove fuel from
reactors without the safety and security risks of thousands of nuclear
transports traveling on our highways, railways, and waterways. There
are currently plans that would increase security and safety at current
sites, provide storage for up to 100 years, and provide time to find
better alternatives. Widely implementing these kinds of plans would
eliminate the security concerns surrounding the potential 108,500
shipments of spent nuclear fuel across the country.
The Yucca Mountain proposal is deceitful from its core because it
promises to remove above-ground nuclear waste storage facilities. The
truth is that, although the proposal will fill our highways and
railways with nuclear HAZMATS, nuclear power plants will be enabled to
produce a greater amount of waste, which will be stored above ground
until it is scheduled for shipment. The Yucca Mountain repository will
not be capable of receiving waste until, at the earliest, 2010. At a
rate of 2,000 tons per year, there will be 62,000 tons of waste by 2010
still sitting in storage facilities in the nuclear power plants around
the country. The Yucca repository will reach its capacity of 77,000
tons in the middle of this century; the amount remaining in storage at
nuclear plants will be almost exactly what it is today. The proposal
will fail to meet its intended purpose.
Congress should reject this proposal. It is an unfunded mandate--
Congress has not worked out the transportation funding, cost of
security measures, and other logistical issues to make this a realistic
project. The time, effort, money and energy required for this project
could be better spent investing in securing nuclear energy plants and
implementing contingency plans for surrounding communities in the event
of an emergency.
Congress should recognize the dangers that will be posed to all
Americans as a result of nuclear HAZMAT trucks and trains streaking
across our highways/rails and through the neighborhoods of my
constituents and millions of people across the country. With the horror
of September 11th still fresh in our minds, we have pledged to the
American people that we will secure their safety--that our way of life
will not be altered by the evil deeds of a hateful few. But this
proposal threatens that promise.
We know that the threat of terror on American soil is real. We should
take time to ensure that those who want to harm this nation would not
have an opportunity. Today, the President is proposing to litter
American highways and railways with slow moving targets. We are setting
the stage for potential disasters. Congress is faced with a choice
between supporting a hastily conceived proposal, or protecting our
constituents. I urge my colleagues to vote no on this resolution and
vote to guarantee the safety and security of the American people.
Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.J. Res.
87 and urge my colleagues to support this important piece of
legislation as well.
While I understand the concern and the opposition from the Nevada
delegation I do believe that the nuclear waste repository at Yucca
Mountain will be a safe and effective means for the management of
nuclear waste for many years to come, in compliance with the Nuclear
Waste Policy Act of 1982. The work of the United States since the dawn
of the nuclear age has assured that the very best site for the disposal
of nuclear waste would be chosen. As early as 1957 the National Academy
of Sciences suggested burying radioactive waste in geologic formations
to the Atomic Energy Commission. Beginning in the 1970's the world
began to contemplate how best to dispose of and manage nuclear waste.
Indeed, many proposals were put forward, like deep seabed disposal,
disposal on polar ice sheets, transmutation, and even rocketing the
material to the surface of the sun. After analyzing and giving credence
to all options, disposal in a mined geologic repository emerged as the
preferred long-term environmental solution for the management of these
Almost 25 years ago the United States began to study Yucca Mountain.
Even before the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 the
Department of Energy recognized the importance of finding a site to
deposit nuclear waste and began to study areas that might have
potential for holding such waste. When the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of
1982 was eventually passed, the Department of Energy was already
studying 25 sites around the country as potential repositories. The Act
provided for the siting and development of two; Yucca Mountain was one
of nine sites under consideration for the first repository program.
In 1986, Secretary of Energy John S. Herrington found three of these
sites suitable for site characterization, and recommended these three,
including Yucca Mountain, to President Reagan for detailed site
characterization. The very next year Congress then amended the Nuclear
Waste Policy Act of 1982 making Yucca Mountain the single site to be
characterized. Since this time Yucca Mountain has been developed and
tested in accordance with both the provisions of the Nuclear Waste
Policy Act of 1982 and in accordance with sound scientific principles.
Mr. Speaker, as a Member of Congress who represents an area with the
Three Mile Island nuclear facility in my district, I have followed the
development of Yucca Mountain closely for quite some time.
Pennsylvanians get 36 percent of their electricity from nuclear power
from five sites around the state. I believe that nuclear power is a
reliable source of clean energy and has served the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania and the United States well over the years. However,
consumers of this electricity have been paying for the development of a
nuclear waste depository every time they flip the switch. We now have
to assure them that the nuclear waste produced while generating needed
power is put somewhere it will be safe and out of harms way for
thousands of years to come. Mr. Speaker, Yucca Mountain is this site.
Currently 162 million Americans live within 75 miles of nuclear waste,
many of them in Pennsylvania and in my district. This is completely
unnecessary. With the technical and scientific genius possessed by the
United States, the United States Congress should not disallow science
from doing the necessary work of finding a safe depository for nuclear
Mr. Speaker, I support H.J. Res. 87 and wish the dedicated scientists
and workers at Yucca Mountain and the Department of Energy all the best
in their pursuit of a safe and effective nuclear waste repository. I
ask my colleagues to join me in support of H.J. Res. 87.
Mr. NETHERCUTT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer my support for
H.J. Res. 87, the Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act.
This is an important vote for Washington State. If we do not relocate
our nuclear waste to the Yucca Mountain repository, the Department of
Energy will be forced to reconsider other sites previously discussed.
One of those previously considered sites is Hanford, Washington.
Without passage of H.J. Res. 87, 42,000 metric tons of spent nuclear
fuel will remain stored at Hanford. This is unacceptable, and would be
disastrous for the environmental health of my state of Washington.
If we fail to move high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, we
will have 161 million people in this country living within 75 miles of
one or more nuclear waste sites--all of which were intended to be
temporary. Without Yucca Mountain we will continue the current system
of storing nuclear waste on the shores of the Great Lakes, Pacific
Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Without Yucca Mountain, we will continue
to store nuclear waste near 20 major waterways that supply household
water for more than 30 million Americans.
Opponents of H.J. Res. 87 have tried to scare the American people
into believing that transporting nuclear waste is not safe. The facts
paint a different picture. Since 1967, there have been 3,000 safe
shipments of spent nuclear fuel. Those shipments have covered 1.7
million miles without one single accident occurring. For those who say
safety is their top concern, let them consider this: Our nuclear sites
are safe, but it would be safer yet to consolidate this waste from
widely dispersed, above-ground sites into a remote, deep underground
location that can be better protected for thousands of years.
So I urge my colleagues, put safety first. Put the safety of our
environment first. Put the safety of our nuclear sites first. Put the
safety of the people living near nuclear sites first. It is time to act
to provide for safe, permanent storage of our nuclear waste at Yucca
Mountain, Nevada. This is best for our country and best for the people
of Washington state.
Mr. COSTELLO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.J. Res. 87,
the Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act. Currently, 45,000
metric tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored in 131 sites in 39 states.
Most of these storage sites are temporary and near large population
centers and water supplies. There is a risk that leaks and damages from
current storage facilities could impact up to 161 million Americans.
Scientists agree that it is unsafe to
permanently store nuclear waste on the shores of the Great Lakes, the
Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of
Mexico, or any other body of water. The Yucca Mountain site will
minimize these risks. I believe that creating a permanent repository
for spent nuclear fuel is the right thing to do, and that is why I will
vote yes today.
The vote today is another step in what has been a 20-year process.
Supporting this resolution allows the Department of Energy to file an
application for a license at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
It is up to the NRC to determine that the site will adequately protect
public health and safety, and to make a decision to grant an operating
license for the facility. The licensing process will take many years,
will require many additional scientific studies, and will continue to
provide for public input at every step along the way. Transportation
plans will continue to be updated during this process and the earliest
shipments would not start for Yucca Mountain until 2010.
I understand that the transportation of spent nuclear fuel is a
concern, and we must address this issue thoroughly. There is no
question we will need to ensure that there is a well-trained and
certified workforce to handle and transport waste. For decades now,
spent nuclear waste has been shipped in small quantities with no
obvious harm to the public. If it becomes apparent that the waste
cannot be transported safety and effectively, I would support revising
the status of the Yucca Mountain repository.
Mr. Speaker, by voting yes today we are taking a prudent step for the
future of this country. For all of these reasons, I support H.J. Res.
Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Yucca
Mountain Repository Site Approval Act (H.J. Res. 87).
I believe that Americans must come to grips with their obsessive fear
of nuclear energy. Nuclear power supplies 20 percent of our nation's
electricity, but no nuclear power plant has been built in the U.S. in
approximately 30 years. That means our generation of electricity is
increasingly dependent on fossil fuels. By contrast, France uses
nuclear power for most of its electricity requirements. Even Japan, the
only nation to be attacked with nuclear weapons, uses nuclear power for
more of its energy needs than the United States. Greater reliance on
nuclear power--and I believe it is safe--would free us from our
dependence on OPEC products.
However, we must also address the safe transportation and disposal of
nuclear waste. The Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act approves
the site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for the development of a repository
for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear
fuel. We need to have a single, consolidated site that can be
Currently, temporary nuclear waste sites are scattered all over the
country. More than 161 million people currently live within 75 miles of
a temporary nuclear waste site, and these sites are near major
waterway. In addition, 40 percent of the U.S. Navy's ships and
submarines are nuclear powered. We simply need to bring all this
nuclear waste into one repository that is designed to permanently store
this material safely for thousands of years. The site at Yucca Mountain
is designed to do just that.
I urge Members to support this joint resolution.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the resolution.
Today the House is confronted with the unpalatable choice of whether
to take the next step in a process that could ultimately ship tons of
hazardous nuclear waste across the country and bury it at the Yucca
Mountain repository, or leave the waste where it is at more than 130
sites around the country. In truth, the question of what to do with the
nuclear waste is an issue we've been avoiding since the dawn of the
nuclear era more than half a century ago. We can't keep putting off
In justice to those who oppose this resolution, moving 70,000 tons of
nuclear waste across the length and breadth of the United States and
burying it in Nevada is by no means a perfect solution. Yucca Mountain
has a number of desirable attributes. It is isolated in an arid
location, far from population centers, and the proposed repository is
protected by natural geological barriers. All that said, claims that
the natural and engineered barriers in place at Yucca Mountain
guarantee that the waste will remain isolated from the environment for
more than 10,000 years have to be viewed with skepticism. In addition,
the issues surrounding the transportation of so much hazardous waste
require additional work.
At the same time, leaving the waste where it is at more than 130
locations in 39 states is not a viable option. None of these sites were
intended or designed for long-term storage of high-level radioactive
waste, and most are located near population centers adjacent to rivers,
lakes and seacoasts. The nuclear waste doesn't go away or become any
less of a problem if we ignore it.
My understanding is that the repository at Yucca Mountain can be kept
open for as long as 300 years, allowing the Department of Energy to
monitor the underground storage areas and even retrieve the waste
packages. When one considers the amazing scientific breakthroughs of
the last three centuries, there are good grounds for optimism that over
the next 300 years we will develop the technological means to engineer
a better solution to this problem. In the meantime, we shouldn't put
off the decision on whether to move forward with the process of
consolidating the waste at Yucca Mountain. Even if we start today, and
all the remaining technical issues are resolved during the licensing
process, it will still be at least ten year before the repository is
Yogi Berra once observed, ``When you come to a fork in the road, take
it.'' For more than 50 years, the United States has put off making a
decision about what to do about the nuclear waste. At long last, it's
time to face up to this problem and move forward.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, this debate has become far more
political than technical. The bottom line is that the Federal
Government made yet another commitment it cannot keep. Following
decades of rosy predictions and assurances to the public, we explicitly
promised to properly dispose of the nation's nuclear waste. Twenty
years and $8 billion dollars later, we are still not prepared to do so.
This is not acceptable. We need to keep our promise to communities
across the country that are temporarily storing waste in sites that are
vulnerable to terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
We are not ready to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
There are too many unresolved questions, even as the Administration
agrees that the current storage system can reasonably remain for many
years. The low standards and inadequate science that the Department of
Energy has shown at Hanford in the Pacific Northwest for decades are
apparent at Yucca Mountain as well.
Even if we do go forward with this proposal, by the time that the
Yucca Mountain site is ready to actually accept waste underground, we
will have already exceeded its capacity. By the year 2035, the waste
from just commercial power plants currently in operation is expected to
be at least 90,000 tons. Yucca Mountain can only hold 77,000 tons. By
law, in order to expand the capacity at Yucca, a second site must be
named. Since Hanford, Washington was examined as one of the potential
sites up until 1987, we have every reason to believe that the
Department of Energy will look to Hanford as a second site once Yucca
The approval of Yucca Mountain will set a dangerous precedent for
other potential sites such as Hanford. When Yucca Mountain failed to
meet repository guidelines, the Department of Energy rewrote those
guidelines to avoid disqualifying the site. I don't want this same low
standard to be applied to Hanford or any of the other potential sites.
The Bush Administration is pushing approval of Yucca Mountain now
because nuclear energy is a large part of its national energy policy.
Yucca is not now a viable long-term solution. It may never be. It makes
no sense to rely on an energy source that produces a deadly waste for
which we have no safe or long-term solution for clean up or storage. As
long as we continue to produce at least a fifth of our energy from
nuclear power plants, we are going to have a nuclear waste problem.
Yucca will not solve that.
I don't pretend to know the answers to our nuclear waste problem. I'm
convinced that transporting the waste across the country in casks that
have not been properly tested and burying it under a mountain whose
geological features are not what we once thought they were is not the
While some may sound confident, I'm not sure anyone has a good
roadmap in hand. This is precisely why we should not implement a policy
that is going to make the situation worse. Approving Yucca Mountain as
a repository site will be giving the nuclear industry a green light to
produce more waste, despite the industry's inability to clean up after
itself or even pay for its own insurance. Until we find a real solution
to the nuclear waste problem, we should not encourage more of it.
Ms. MINK of Hawaii. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.J.
Res. 87 and am shocked that it is even on the calendar. The people of
Nevada have spoken! Governor Guinn of Nevada has vetoed the site as
allowed under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (PL 100-
203). This should be the end of it. Congress put this veto provision
into law to respect the State of Nevada's rights.
Mr. Speaker, every Member of the Nevada delegation is opposed to this
Resolution and opposed to the Yucca Mountain site. They do not believe
that the Department of Energy's recommendation was based on sound
science and neither do I. The Congress created the
Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board to provide oversight to the
Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure that the Yucca site would be based
on sound science. This Board is made up of nationally recognized
scientists. A recent review of the DOE's scientific review was graded
an ``F'' by the Board.
There has not been enough scientific research on issues relating to
the storage of nuclear waste. The Congress acted hastily in 1987 by
limiting the consideration of potential sites to only Yucca Mountain.
This way, no matter what science said or what potential health risks
should arise, Yucca Mountain was going to be the site of the
repository. This is a State's Rights issue. The people of Nevada do not
want the nuclear waste and the Congress should not force the waste upon
them. I urge my colleague to vote ``no'' on H.J. Res. 87.
Mr. SIMMONS. Mr. Speaker, since coming to Congress in January 2001,
protecting the environment has been one of my top priorities. I am
proud to have authored the law granting federal ``wild and scenic''
status to Connecticut's Eightmile River; proud of my pro-environment
votes, including voting against weakening our nation's arsenic
standards; and proud of my appointment as Co-Chair of the Long Island
Out of all of my efforts to protect Connecticut's environment,
nothing is more important than today's vote to establish a permanent
high-level nuclear water storage facility at Yucca Mountain, in the
Eastern Connecticut is home to four nuclear power plants--Millstone
1, 2 and 3 and Connecticut Yankee. The Millstone nuclear power plant in
Waterford sits on Long Island Sound. On Millstone's 500 acres sits tons
radioactive waste. Just north of Millstone, on the banks of the
Connecticut River, is the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant on
Haddam Neck. There, 22 years of spent nuclear fuel sits in a cooling
pool waiting to be removed. All told, there is more than 1,500 metric
tons of spent nuclear fuel at those two sites.
Establishing Yucca Mountain will begin the process of removing
nuclear waste from these two facilities. Why is that important? Imagine
an accident involving the spent fuel pools at Millstone in Waterford.
Imagine nuclear water seeping into the Long Island Sound. What would
happen? Connecticut's shellfish industry--decimated; Water skiing and
recreation in the Sound--forget about it. The entire Long Island Sound
ecosystem would be destroyed for generations. This is why a vote for
Yucca Mountain is a vote to protect Connecticut's environment.
What about an accident at Connecticut Yankee? what would happen to
the Connecticut River if spent fuel spilled into it? Connecticut's
largest fresh water river--contaminated; Salmon and shad, which are
just beginning to replenish the river waters--gone and never coming
back. And all of this flowing south past Interstate 95 and the Amtrak
Northeast Corridor into Long Island Sound.
Nuclear waste dumped into the Connecticut River would destroy New
England's largest river ecosystem and one of the Nation's first
American Heritage Rivers. This is why a vote for Yucca Mountain is a
vote to protect Connecticut's environment.
Mr. Speaker, clearly, establishing Yucca Mountain is critical to
Connecticut's environmental needs. But if you have another reason to
support H.J. Res. 87, let's look at the issue from a national security
Make no mistake--spent fuel in a permanent repository for storage is
less susceptible to terrorist attacks than spent fuel in temporary
sites, especially when the Yucca site is isolated and the temporary
storage facilities are often close to population centers and waterways.
In fact, today more than 161 million people currently live within 75
miles of one or more nuclear waste sites, all of which were intended to
be temporary. These sites are also located near 20 major waterways that
supply water to more than 30 million Americans. Highly radioactive
nuclear waste is currently stored in more than 131 sites in 39 states.
A coordinated attack, similar to those on September 11, on two or more
of these sites would be catastrophic.
There is no question that keeping this hazardous waste in miles of
tunnels beneath solid rock in the arid desert provides better security
for storage and monitoring than leaving it along our undefended rivers
Access to the Yucca site is already restricted due to its proximity
to the Nevada Test Site and Nellis Air Force Range surrounds the site
on three sides, providing an effective rapid-response security force.
Establishing one spent fuel site will protect our environment and
strengthen our national security. Yucca Mountain is one of the few
issues that brings together environmentalists and defense hawks. Any
issue that can do that is worthy of this body's support. I urge my
colleagues to join me in support of H.J. Res. 87.
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, nuclear utilities intend to
keep producing nuclear waste, and with talk about creating new reactors
this would only add to the growing waste problem.
The Bush Energy Plan calls for doubling the number of nuclear
reactors in the U.S. by 2040. Yucca Mountain is only designed to
contain the waste from existing reactors.
The GAO report concludes it would be premature for the Secretary of
Energy to recommend Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste
repository for 77,000 metric tons of radioactive waste because many
technical issues remain unresolved. Energy Secretary Abraham
recommended the site anyway.
The report said the Department of Energy (DOE) is unlikely to achieve
its goal of opening a repository at Yucca Mountain by 2010 and
currently does not have a reliable estimate of when, and at what cost,
such a repository can be opened.
Two hundred ninety-three unfinished scientific and technical issues
have yet to be resolved before the site can be opened. For example,
additional study is needed on how water would flow through the
repository area to the underlying groundwater and on the durability of
waste containers which are needed to last tens of thousands of years.
We should use sound science to solve these unresolved issues to
determine if Yucca Mountain is really ready to receive nuclear waste.
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in strong opposition
to this resolution.
But first, I must thank our colleague, the Gentlelady from Nevada,
for her outstanding leadership on Yucca Mountain.
She is a champion for her state. She has said she would lay herself
down on the railroad tracks to prevent nuclear waste from coming into
her state, and I know she would do it.
Mr. Speaker, every day, the President and the Republican leadership
claim that they want to keep the federal government out of people's
lives and empower states with the flexibility to govern themselves.
Yet today we are going to override the veto of a governor and go
against the express wishes of the people of Nevada.
The President has broken his promise to the people of Nevada. Before
his election, he promised that the decision whether to store nuclear
waste at Yucca Mountain would be based on sound science.
The science is not sound.
The GAO has identified more than 250 significant technical issues
that still need to be resolved before going ahead with Yucca Mountain.
Mr. Speaker, many Yucca Mountain supporters say: ``We have to put
this waste somewhere. Get it out of my neighborhood and put it
I want to remind my colleagues that moving it out of your
neighborhood won't solve the problem.
As long as your local nuclear power plant is running, there will
always be nuclear waste in your neighborhood--the hottest and most
dangerous waste, the waste that just came out of the reactor core.
And transporting the waste puts many more communities at risk of
accidents and terrorist attacks.
Nor does Yucca Mountain solve our long-term waste storage problem. By
the time the repository opens, we will have enough waste to fill it up,
and we'll have to start over again, looking for another site.
We need to choose a different path. We need to develop clean,
renewable energy sources that do not produce lethal waste that will
endure for hundreds of thousands of years.
Mr. Speaker, when we make this decision today, we should associate
ourselves with the aspirations of a state, protect the environment of
our country, and do the right thing, and vote against this resolution.
Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. J. Res. 87, the
Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act. I am happy to join my
colleagues as we approach the end of this 20 year journey to find an
appropriate repository for spent nuclear fuel.
Common sense dictates that nuclear waste belongs in a secure and
remote location, not the coast of Southern California. Today, this
House will vote to support one of President Bush's national security
objectives: the construction of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste
Congressional approval for the President's plan to build the Yucca
Mountain facility will be a step toward resolving California's power
crisis and will protect our communities from the unnecessary risk to
storing nuclear waste. Centralizing the storage of hazardous nuclear
waste at the remote Yucca Mountain facility clearly makes more sense
than the current system of storing nuclear waste at 131 different
storage sites including San Onofre, a nuclear power plant located in my
Today 161 million Americans live within 75 miles of at least one of
these 131 storage facilities. The future security, efficiency and
environmental advantages of storing spent nuclear fuel at the completed
Yucca Mountain facility surpass those of any other viable alternative,
including the continuation of the current system.
Consider the advantages of the proposed Yucca Mountain facility.
Located on remote federal land, it would be more than 90 miles away
from any major population center. In terms of security, the facility
would be buried 1,000 feet below the desert surface, the site is
surrounded on three sides by the Nellis Air Force Range, the airspace
above Yucca Mountain is restricted and the facility would have its own
elite rapid-response security force.
Scientific studies conducted by the Department of Energy have, since
1982, evaluated the risks to the site posed by volcanoes, earthquakes,
underground water, human intrusion and many other potential threats;
after carefully considering these factors scientists have concluded
that the risk to the Yucca Mountain site over the next 10,000 years are
The centralization of spent nuclear fuel at the Yucca Mountain
facility will allow a more efficient allocation of resources to manage
and safeguard nuclear waste than is possible under the current system
or any other current proposal for the future. When the technology that
recycles spent nuclear fuel becomes a reality, the concentration of
resource at Yucca Mountain will speed efforts to reduce or eliminate
Environmentally, even if no additional nuclear power plants are
built, the need to securely store existing spent nuclear fuel will
continue. Nuclear power is environmentally friendly, economical and
safe. Yucca Mountain will open the door to the possibility of building
new nuclear power plants, instead of more coal and oil plants, to meet
California's energy needs and to avert a future power crisis like the
one experienced last summer. Storing spent nuclear fuel in a central,
secure and remote location that minimizes the threat of contaminating
water sources, the atmosphere and our nation's wildlife is the most
environmentally responsible policy possible under given conditions. The
proposal to build a single storage site at Yucca Mountain will protect
the environment and public safety better than building and maintaining
several smaller storage facilities throughout the United States.
The arguments of those who oppose the Yucca Mountain project revolve
around the fear of uncertainty. These arguments point to the
possibility that the scientific assessments of the Yucca Mountain site
could be flawed. They note that despite all planned precautions and the
extensive experience our nation already has in transporting spent
nuclear fuel, an accident could occur in transport. Finally, they hold
out the hope that American ingenuity will develop new technologies that
can easily recycle spent nuclear fuel or even eliminate the need for
nuclear power through advances in solar, wind and other energies--thus
eliminating the need for new spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.
While these points cannot and should not be ignored, they are
Uncertaintly, in fact, is a major reason why the Yucca Mountain
facility should be built. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has noted
that existing nuclear waste storage facilities, like the one at San
Onofre, ``should be able to withstand current terrorist threats, but
that may not remain the case in the future.''
Any uncertainty involving spent nuclear fuel is better addressed
1,000 feet below the surface of the desert and 90 miles away from any
major population center than in the middle of highly populated places
like Southern California. The construction of the Yucca Mountain
facility is a national security issue. I intend to support President
Bush's decision to build the facility and hope that my colleagues in
Congress also will back the President.
Mr. Speaker, our journey is about to be completed regarding Yucca
Mountain. I ask that my colleagues support passage of the resolution.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Isakson). All time has expired.
Pursuant to section 115(e)(4) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of
1982, the previous question is ordered.
The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the joint
The joint resolution was ordered to be engrossed and read a third
time, and was read the third time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the passage of the joint
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that
the ayes appeared to have it.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the ground that a
quorum is not present and make the point of order that a quorum is not
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Evidently a quorum is not present.
The Sergeant at Arms will notify absent Members.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 306,
nays 117, not voting 12, as follows:
[Roll No. 133]
Davis, Jo Ann
Johnson, E. B.
Mrs. KELLY changed her vote from ``yea'' to ``nay.''
So the joint resolution was passed.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.