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High-Level Nuclear Waste

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Shimkus) for 5 minutes.

Rep. John Shimkus

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor once again to reiterate Federal law, a law that was passed in 1982, called the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and the amendments offered in 1987, which said that Yucca Mountain would be the long-term geological repository for our nuclear waste in this country. It's unfortunate that I have to keep coming down on the floor to address this issue because of the administration's position to defund, derail, stop, and to actually break Federal law.

To do that, not only do I just talk about the legal aspects of the Federal law, but I have been going around the country, identifying locations where we currently have high-level nuclear waste, and have been asking the basic question: Would you rather have it at location A or at location B?

So, today, we return to Pennsylvania, to a power plant called Limerick. Limerick has 1,143 metric tons of uranium spent fuel on site. At Limerick, the waste is stored above the ground in pools and in casks. It is 20 feet above the groundwater, and it is on the Schuylkill River, which is 40 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is where we currently store high-level nuclear waste.

Now, compare that to where we should by Federal law store high-level nuclear waste--in a place defined in law under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act: Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. This tells you it's a government job. We've only been working on it for about 30 years, and we've only spent about $15 billion to study, research, and ascertain that Yucca Mountain is a suitable location.

So, at Yucca Mountain, since we've spent approximately 30 years and $15 billion, how much nuclear waste do we have on site? Zero.

If we had it, where would it be stored? It would be stored 1,000 feet underground. It would be stored 1,000 feet above the water table, and it would be over 100 miles from the Colorado River. There is no safer place in the country, and there is no more studied location than Yucca Mountain. It just makes sense.

What is a better location: next to a major river that feeds into the major metropolitan area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or underneath a mountain in a desert? I would submit to you that underneath a mountain in a desert is the proper location.

So what is the holdup? Well, the holdup is the Senator from Nevada, Harry Reid. More compelling are the other Senators from his party who are allowing Senator Reid to block this, which is a detriment to their own States. We are going to talk about two in particular, but we're looking at four Senators from two States--Senator Casey, Senator Toomey, Senator Manchin, and Senator Rockefeller.

Senator Toomey is already on record as supporting Yucca Mountain. In fact, I quote him here:

The alternative is what we have now--highly radioactive waste located at 131 sites in 39 States, including nuclear power plants close to the Lehigh Valley. That cannot be as safe and secure as burying this stuff deep in Yucca Mountain.

The other Senator is quoted, but has got question marks here because, in his being a Senator for 5\1/2\ years, we don't know his position of whether he thinks storing high-level nuclear waste at Limerick is a better plan than placing it underneath a mountain in a desert. He understands the concern and the need.

He is quoted as saying:

As a Senator from a State with nine commercial reactors-- this being one--and 10 million people living within 50 miles of those reactors, I can tell you that nuclear security is extremely important to Pennsylvanians.

So my question is, which is the question posed here: Will you state a position on whether you think Yucca Mountain is that location since it's in Federal law?

Overall, why is this important? As I've been coming down to the floor for the past year and a half, we've done a tally sheet of where Senators stand based upon their votes or their public comments. We have 55 Senators who say, yes, Yucca Mountain is the place we ought to go. Of course, if you follow closely in the parliamentary processes between the two Chambers, you really need 60 to move a bill in the Senate. It's over five short. We need Senator Casey to get on record in support of Yucca Mountain.

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