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Top Five Untruths from 4/18 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on Yucca Mountain

Top Five Untruths from 4/18 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on Yucca Mountain

Gold and Silver Medals Go to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham!

  Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham: The proposed repository would consolidate U.S. nuclear waste in one location.

Freshly irradiated nuclear fuel is thermally and radioactively too hot to handle and must be stored on site in a “cooling pool” for at least five years before it can be transported. This means that, even if a repository opens, there will be at least five years worth of nuclear waste (110-165 tons) stored on site at each operating reactor.

Further, the proposed Yucca Mountain repository could not contain all the waste that U.S. nuclear reactors will generate in their licensed lifetimes. Repository capacity is capped at 77,000 tons, with 10 percent designated for DOE defense waste, whereas the current fleet of commercial reactors alone is expected to generate at least 99,000 tons of waste by 2035. Nuclear industry proposals to construct new reactors would result in yet more waste in excess of the proposed repository?s capacity.

  • Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham: Yucca Mountain is out in the middle of nowhere.

No, Secretary Abraham, not only is this inaccurate, but it implies an unacceptable ethic that it?s okay to “waste” public land.

  • Secretary Abraham (when questioned on waste transport): The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) will designate routes.

No, Secretary Abraham, that would be your job. The Department of Energy (DOE) is to suggest preferred routes in compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. The NRC’s Yucca licensing rule has nothing to do with transport routes.?

  • Secretary Abraham: The decision on whether to establish a repository at Yucca Mountain should be left to the “neutral” and “objective” NRC.

The NRC licensing rule is very narrow. Under it, the agency will not consider the suitability of the site, or the safety and feasibility of transporting waste to it. In fact, regulatory rollbacks have weakened NRC Yucca Mountain licensing standards. The role of Congress should not be downplayed in protecting health and safety.

  • Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality (calming fears about terrorism): A test at Aberdeen Proving Ground resulted in no radiation release when a TOW missile was shot at the cask.

But Rep. Barton, that?s only because it was an empty cask! The TOW missile blew a hole through the cask wall, which would certainly have resulted in radiation release and possibly damage to any fuel rods inside.