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Bush Poised to “Trash” Campaign Promise on Nuclear Waste Dump

Feb. 15, 2002

Bush Poised to “Trash” Campaign Promise on Nuclear Waste Dump

Vow to Base Decision on ?Sound Science? Rings Hollow

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? President George W. Bush will be flip-flopping on a campaign promise and putting the public at risk if he accepts Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham?s recommendation to create a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Public Citizen said today.

During his presidential campaign, then-candidate Bush vowed that any decisions regarding the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain would be based not on politics but on “sound science.” Evidence indicates that Abraham?s recommendation is based on nothing of the sort. White House sources have indicated Bush will accept Abraham?s recommendation and forward it to Congress. If he does, Bush — whose presidential campaign received nearly $300,000 from the nuclear power industry according to the Center for Responsive Politics ? will be putting politics first and turning his back on a campaign promise made to Nevadans and the nation.

After spending years of study and billions of dollars, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has not been able to demonstrate that the proposed repository could safely contain nuclear waste. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded just weeks ago that a site recommendation at this time would be premature.

Abraham?s recommendation to the White House shows blatant disrespect for public health, instead currying the favor of an industry that simply wants to get rid of its waste so it can make more of it. In his Feb. 14 letter to the president, the energy secretary, who received more than $80,000 from the nuclear industry in his unsuccessful bid for re-election to the Senate in 2000, says he is “convinced” that “sound science” supports his determination. He even claims that the presidentially appointed Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board supports his recommendation, although that same review board in fact has characterized the DOE?s scientific work at Yucca Mountain as “weak.”

“If the president were to stick by the promise he made during the campaign and base a decision on a thoughtful, deliberative consideration of the scientific reviews, he would flatly reject Abraham?s recommendation,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “If, as expected, the president embraces the recommendation, it means that Bush?s promise was as hollow as the tunnels the government has been drilling in the Nevada mountainside.”

Abraham?s recommendation also includes the absurd claim that putting thousands of tons of deadly nuclear waste on trucks and trains and moving it all over the country would enhance national security.

Even if the Yucca dump is opened, irradiated fuel has to “cool” for at least five years before it can be transported. So as long as nuclear reactors are operating, there will still be tons of nuclear waste at reactor sites. Transporting waste doesn?t reduce the number of potential radioactive targets, but vastly increases it because each shipment becomes a target. The waste would be transported through 44 states and the District of Columbia, putting millions of people at risk.

“The residents of those communities have had no opportunity to tell the president what they think of having the nation?s most deadly radioactive materials shipped through their neighborhoods or past their childrens? schools,” Hauter said. “Once people realize waste is coming through their town and start demanding answers about safety and security from the DOE, they?ll discover what Nevadans have known for years: You can?t trust the DOE to put people?s safety over industry profits.”

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn has announced his intention to veto the project, but Congress could override Nevada?s objection. A vote by Congress is expected later this year.

“The driving force behind the Yucca Mountain project has never been sound science, but nuclear industry profits,” Hauter said. “This administration?s energy policies already have been discredited by the secretive influence of energy industry tycoons. Congress should reject the bought-and-paid-for nuclear waste policy of the Bush administration, protect the integrity of government processes ? as well as public health and safety ? and oppose the Yucca Mountain project.”