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Clinton Veto of Damaging Nuclear Waste Bill Upheld in Senate Vote

May 2, 2000

Clinton Veto of Damaging Nuclear Waste Bill Upheld in Senate Vote:

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

For the third time this year, the nuclear industry was unsuccessful in its attempt to pass the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2000 (S.1287). This afternoon, a critical 34 “nay” votes were registered ? enough to sustain the president’s veto of this irresponsible legislation.

The U.S. Senate has once again refused to support the nuclear industry’s request for a bailout. By not overriding President Clinton?s veto of the Yucca Mountain legislation, the schedule for moving deadly nuclear waste from reactors across the country to Nevada will not be recklessly speeded up. This bill willfully disregards the safety and health of over 50 million Americans.

This legislation was sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), the recipient of over $18,000 from nuclear PACs last year. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the recipient of over $58,000 in nuclear PAC contributions last year, arranged on behalf of the industry to keep the bill available for legislative action this year by getting it recommitted to the committee. Although many senators are willing to risk the safety of their constituents for campaign dollars, there are enough lawmakers who will stand up for America and vote down this bill.

The bill would allow temporary waste storage at Yucca Mountain as early as 2006, as soon as the Department of Energy (DOE) receives a license to construct a repository. This means the largest nuclear waste shipping campaign in the history of the world would be launched with waste traveling through 43 states for 25 years, past the homes and workplaces of 50 million Americans. In addition, the bill stipulates that the DOE begin placing waste in the repository no later than 18 months after a construction permit is granted.

Yucca Mountain, located near Las Vegas, Nev., is the only site being considered by the DOE as a “permanent disposal” site for highly radioactive nuclear waste. This spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste is currently located at 77 sites across the country and would have to be transported by truck or rail to Yucca Mountain if that site is approved as a geologic repository. It is unfortunate that lawmakers have ignored the risks of a catastrophic release of radiation in the event of a crash. We are encouraged by the number of lawmakers who voted against the bill, however, and hold out hope that a veto will be sustained.