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Congress Should Rein in Yucca Mountain Spending

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability * Clean Water Action * Environmental Working Group * Friends of the Earth * Greenpeace * National Environmental Trust * Natural Resources Defense Council * Nuclear Information & Resource Service * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Public Citizen * Sierra Club * U.S. Public Interest Research Group * The Wilderness Society * Women’s Action for New Directions

Feb. 13, 2003

Congress Should Rein in Yucca Mountain Spending

Group Letter to Appropriators Criticizes Budget for Proposed Nuclear Dump

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress should object to provisions in the Bush administration’s 2004 budget affecting the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project, national environmental, public interest and public health organizations said in a letter sent today to House and Senate appropriators.

Last summer, Congress voted to allow the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to proceed with a license application to transport 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste to a repository at Yucca Mountain, 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nev. Critics of the project have raised concerns about the dangers of transporting nuclear waste, federal regulatory rollbacks that have weakened environmental standards for the project, and outstanding technical issues surrounding the suitability of the site.

“None of our longstanding concerns about the Yucca Mountain project have been resolved,” the groups wrote in the letter. “More than ever, at this crucial juncture, the project requires careful congressional oversight and budget scrutiny.”

The groups urged appropriators to withhold full funding for the Yucca Mountain program in 2004, budgeted at $591 million – a 28 percent increase over the funding levels agreed to in this year’s omnibus appropriations bill. The groups also criticized the administration’s proposal to stop funding monitoring and oversight activities carried out by the state of Nevada.

The groups also drew attention to a new proposal to reserve funds for the Yucca Mountain project within discretionary cap adjustments, a measure expected to be considered by House and Senate budget committees later this spring. This would inappropriately limit the discretionary authority of appropriators to balance various budget priorities, essentially granting the DOE a blank check for Yucca Mountain spending, the groups said.

“Fiscally as well as environmentally, this unusual maneuver would be grossly irresponsible, particularly given the DOE’s track record of cost overruns and financial mismanagement in its nuclear programs,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

Fourteen national organizations endorsed the letter. Click here to view the letter.