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Congressional Travel on the Nuclear Energy Institute?s Tab

July 30, 1998

Congressional Travel on the Nuclear Energy Institute?s Tab

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the well-funded lobbying arm of the nuclear industry, financed junkets to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, via Las Vegas, for 74 Senators, House Members, and staffers in 1997. Yucca Mountain is the site of a proposed nuclear waste repository with serious scientific uncertainties as to whether it can protect the health and safety of local citizens. The total cost to NEI was $81,421, but that high price may have helped solidify the votes the industry was targeting with these trips. Of those who traveled on NEI?s tab, 85 percent voted for cloture (to end a filibuster) of S. 104 and 95 percent voted for H.R. 1270. Both bills are known as the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997.

“Las Vegas hotel and casino perks for Congress are not doled out to improve democracy, but to provide the nuclear lobby greater access to Congress,” said Auke Piersma, energy policy analyst with Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy Project. “It seems clear that the trips are used to reward the nuclear industry?s Congressional friends and toss perks to those who are undecided.”

“In an attempt to hide the significant scientific concerns, the NEI-funded tour of Yucca Mountain bars the State of Nevada oversight scientists from participating” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy Project. “This ?fact finding? trip is more of a free junket to learn only the manipulated facts that NEI deems worthy to know.”

On at least one occasion, staffers stayed at the Rio Suite Casino Resort, a five star hotel, with a sandy beach by the pool, 15 restaurants, the Copacabana Showroom, golf course, 20 retails stores, and the world?s largest public wine collection. “To get 74 Members or staff to agree to a trip is difficult, but if Las Vegas is the destination, they tend to make an exception” said Steve Weissman, legislative representative of Public Citizen?s Congress Watch.

“Congressional travel can be useful, but not when it is paid for and controlled by corporate lobbyists,” said Piersma. “Excursions to Yucca Mountain should be funded by the taxpayer and do not need to include trips to the casinos 100 miles to the South.”

Click here to read the full report.