Oscar-Nominated Actor and Activist James Cromwell Joins Fight Against Dangerous Nuclear Waste Programs

May 23, 2002

Oscar-Nominated Actor and Activist James Cromwell Joins Fight Against Dangerous Nuclear Waste Programs

Celebrity Urges Opposition to the Yucca Mountain and Private Fuel Storage Debacles

WASHINGTON, D.C. – James Cromwell, long-time Native American rights activist and Oscar nominated-actor, joined environmental, public interest and religious groups at a press conference outside the Capitol today to urge lawmakers and regulators to reject two dangerous proposals for radioactive waste facilities in the Great Basin. The event took place as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gathered for the third and final Senate hearing on the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.

“The proposals for radioactive waste dumps at Yucca Mountain and on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah put us all at risk ? today and for generations to come,” Cromwell said. “We cannot afford to be silent on these important issues.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to dump 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste from commercial power reactors and DOE nuclear sites at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The project is opposed by the Western Shoshone and Paiute people for whom Yucca Mountain is a sacred site. The DOE?s dose modeling, used to determine “acceptable levels” of radiation release from the proposed repository, does not adequately take into account traditional Native American lifestyles and would impose a disproportionate toxic burden on indigenous communities in the area. The Senate is expected to vote on the Yucca Mountain proposal later this summer.

Similarly, Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of commercial nuclear utilities lead by Minnesota?s Xcel Energy, is seeking a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to open a “temporary” storage facility for 44,000 tons of high-level waste on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah. The community there is divided over the issue. Private Fuel Storage has paid undisclosed amounts of money to supporters of the project, while tribal opponents have launched lawsuits against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and intervened with the NRC in an effort to stop the dangerous project. The NRC is expected to rule on the Private Fuel Storage license application before the end of this year.

“These two programs stem from the same highly flawed processes and policies by which public health and safety play second fiddle to the profit-motivated interests of the nuclear industry,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. “The Yucca Mountain and Private Fuel Storage projects must be stopped. We are calling for a thorough review and reorientation of nuclear waste policy.”

Added Rev. Ron Steif, director of the United Church of Christ?s Justice and Witness Ministries, “Christians, and people of all faiths, are entrusted by God to protect the people and resources of the earth. U.S. nuclear policy has historically and consistently sacrificed the land, health and traditional ways of Native Americans, and we have a moral obligation to oppose this latest attempt to dump deadly nuclear waste in the homelands of the indigenous peoples of the Great Basin region.”

Speakers at the press conference also raised concerns about the dangers of transporting nuclear waste to the Great Basin, which is distant from most nuclear reactors. The DOE has indicated that shipments would pass through 44 states and the District of Columbia. Nuclear waste transport containers have not been physically tested to ensure they can withstand a crash. An accident or terrorist attack involving a high-level radioactive waste shipment could be catastrophic.

“The risks of transporting deadly nuclear waste, the environmental justice impacts and the long-term health effects of both these projects are untenable,” Cromwell said.

Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) also spoke at the press conference.

The Yucca Mountain and Private Fuel Storage proposals are widely opposed by safe-energy advocates. The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), a network of 200 indigenous organizations, traditional societies and communities across North America, also opposes these projects. Click here to view IEN?s statement is online.

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