June 6, 2007
Congress Should Abandon Plans to Reprocess Nuclear Waste; Public Interest Groups Support Sen. Russell Feingold’s Call to Reject DOE Funding Request for Reprocessing
We applaud Sen. Russell Feingold’s (D-Wisc.) letter released today calling on the Senate to reject a $250 million request from the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund the reprocessing of nuclear spent fuel. The letter, sent to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, takes a stand against the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which would initiate an open-ended, multibillion-dollar taxpayer commitment to nuclear reprocessing.
Our organizations – Council for a Livable World, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Union of Concerned Scientists – stand behind Sen. Feingold in urging the Congress to eliminate funding for the GNEP in the 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
Despite the initial request for $250 million, the real cost to taxpayers will be exorbitant – an estimated $100 billion just to reprocess the current amount of spent fuel in the United States, according to the National Academy of Sciences. That figure does not include waste produced by extending the lives of existing reactors, from proposed new reactors or from nuclear waste imported from other countries under the GNEP proposal.
Reprocessing spent fuel will not make nuclear waste go away; it will create additional, unique waste streams that will require their own treatment and storage equipment. The DOE is still spending billions each year to clean up waste from previous experiments with reprocessing during the 1960s and 1970s.
Reprocessing would also undermine our nonproliferation efforts and make weapons-usable fissile material easier for terrorists to obtain. By reprocessing spent fuel and separating plutonium – which is intended to produce electricity but can be used to make nuclear weapons – the United States would be encouraging other countries to follow suit, and this increases the chances that such material will get into the wrong hands.
The administration’s plan would mean an unlimited drain of billions of taxpayer dollars, would cause new environmental and security concerns, and would bring foreign nuclear waste into this country. We strongly urge Congress to heed Sen. Feingold’s warning and reject reprocessing.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Council for a Livable World
Natural Resources Defense Council