WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) testified before the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), during a hearing on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, which would allow the authorization of licensing for the storage of nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain facility.
“For over 30 years, the state of Nevada and local communities have rejected the misguided Yucca Mountain project on safety, public health, national security, and environmental grounds,” said Senator Rosen. “This committee’s legislation ignores the environmental, safety, and security concerns of Nevadans who would be forced to store nuclear waste that they had no role in creating. I therefore urge the Committee to stop wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money by resurrecting a project that’s been dead for over 30 years, and instead identify viable alternatives for the long-term repository in areas that are proven safe and whose communities consent to that storage.”
BACKGROUND: Last month, Senator Rosen co-led a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to zero out funding for Yucca Mountain in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill.
Earlier this year, Senator Rosen introduced the bipartisan Jobs, Not Waste Act, legislation to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from taking action relating to the licensing, planning, development, or construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain until the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submits a study to Congress on the economic benefits of alternative uses of the site, and Congress holds a hearing on the benefits of alternative uses.
Read text of the Senator’s testimony below:
Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Carper, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today along with my senior Senator Cortez Masto. But let me make one thing clear: Nevadans wholeheartedly oppose becoming the nation’s nuclear dumping ground.
For over 30 years, the state of Nevada and local communities have rejected the misguided Yucca Mountain project on safety, public health, national security, and environmental grounds. In fact, the state has filed over 200 contentions against the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application, challenging the adequacy of DOE’s environmental impact assessments. Nevada’s full bipartisan delegation opposes this bill, as do the previous Republican Governor Brian Sandoval and the current Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak. I would like to submit for the record Governor’s Sisolak letter in opposition to Yucca Mountain.
As we have known for decades, numerous scientific studies have deemed Yucca Mountain unsafe, based on the fact that the site, as Senator Masto said, is seismically active and sits above an aquifer.
Moreover, this particular legislation, designating Yucca Mountain as the nation’s dumping ground would require transporting over 110,000 metric tons of radioactive waste – this number is 40,000 more metric tons than what was outlined in the original Nuclear Waste Policy Act -- and much of it would travel by rail and road through the heart of Las Vegas and dozens of other major cities across this country.
So let’s put this in perspective: we are talking about shipping roughly 1 to 3 trains or 1 to 2 truck shipments across the country, every week for 50 years, from 76 shipping sites. That nuclear waste would be transported weekly through a total of 44 states including many represented on this committee today: Wyoming, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Idaho and all the rest. It is hard to imagine that shipping over 5,000 truck casks of high-level nuclear waste over a span of 50 years, won’t result in at least one radiological release somewhere in this country.
Severe transportation accidents involving these shipments threaten the health and safety of tourists and individuals who live along proposed routes all across this country, and would cause billions of dollars in cleanup costs and related economic losses. So I ask the Members here today: is this a risk you are willing to take?
In addition, Yucca Mountain represents a serious challenge for our national security.
The Yucca Mountain site is adjacent to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), the “Crown Jewel” of the Air Force. This Air Force training site provides the largest air and ground military training space in the contiguous United States without interference from commercial aircraft. It is also home to 75 percent of stateside Air Force live munitions.
Military leaders have said the Yucca Mountain project could directly impact our country’s ability to defend itself. There are no nuclear waste transportation routes across the training site that would not impact these training exercises. Does it really makes sense to transport and store our nation’s nuclear waste right next to a military bombing range?
Not only is this bill bad for the safety of millions of Americans and our national security, this bill also proposes a radical change to our nation’s approach to nuclear waste management. The original Nuclear Waste Policy Act from the 1980s calls for two repositories, one to ensure regional equity and the other to address technical redundancy. This bill does away with that by eliminating the current requirement for progress on a second repository - placing the entire burden on Nevada, and we don’t even produce nuclear energy.
Finally, once again, this bill further takes away Nevada’s voice by moving forward with the Yucca Mountain project without a consent-based process in place. Nevada does not want – nor has ever wanted – to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. This bill, what it’s taking away from us is our founding principle of state-self-determination and liberty and sending us to a place where all states are not equal under the law.
As Senators, we are here to represent the voice of our constituents. I don’t think any Senator would think it is okay for other Senators to take away the voice of their state. Nevada needs a voice in this process. This is nothing more than an attempt to take away Nevada’s state rights.
With all due respect, this committee’s legislation ignores the environmental, safety, and security concerns of Nevadans who would be forced to store nuclear waste that they had no role in creating. I therefore urge the Committee to stop wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money by resurrecting a project that’s been dead for over 30 years, and instead identify viable alternatives for the long-term repository in areas that are proven safe and whose communities consent to that storage.
I really appreciate the opportunity to testify today.
Full video of Senator Rosen’s testimony is available here.