S. 1287, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1999, may soon hit the U.S. Senate Floor. Register your opposition NOW by writing, faxing and phoning your U.S. Senators!
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... It's back, like a bad sequel.
S. 1287, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1999 -- the latest incarnation of the Mobile Chernobyl bill that grassroots activists like you have helped fend off time and time again since 1995 -- may soon hit the Senate floor.
Now is the time to stop this nightmare of a nuclear waste bill -- on Capitol Hill, before the Mobile Chernobyls actually hit our nation's roads and rails, to dump their deadly cargo into a leaking hole in the ground at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
Register your opposition to S. 1287 by WRITING, FAXING and PHONING your U.S. Senators. When urging your Senators to vote NO (for all the reasons listed below), be sure to cite the bill number, S. 1287, and its title, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1999, sponsored by Senator Murkowski (Republican from Alaska).
PHONE the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be put through to your Senators' offices. Once speaking to them, get their direct phone and FAX numbers. Personally written letters and faxes are especially effective. WRITE to:
The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510.
Below is background on S. 1287, and talking points to use when contacting your Senators. Give it a quick read, then use the "bullets" to concisely communicate to your Senators why they should oppose S. 1287.
After you take your own personal action, think of networks of others you can activate. There is still time for outreach. S. 1287 affects our entire nation, with DOE admitting that the tens of thousands of potential Mobile Chernobyls will pass through 43 States, and within half a mile of 50 million Americans, during the 30 years of high-level nuclear waste transportation. To check out the projected nuclear waste shipping routes in your state, visit the State of Nevada's Nuclear Projects Office website and look at the maps: http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/yucca/travel.htm
State maps are also available in the Don't Waste America section of NIRS' website: ttp://www.nirs.org
The point is, Mobile Chernobyl -- like nuclear power in general -- threatens us all, so we should mobilize as many people as we can to stop it. Call Kevin Kamps at NIRS at (202) 328-0002 for more ideas on what you can do, such as letter-writing parties, press conferences featuring a mock nuclear waste cask, holding a banner on a bridge overlooking a Mobile Chernobyl route, etc.
This latest version of the Mobile Chernobyl nuclear waste bill was approved by the Senate Energy Committee in mid-June, 1999: S. 1287, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1999. The bill is sponsored by Senator Murkowski (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, truly the nuclear power industry's "point man" in the U.S. Senate. This bill is a departure from Murkowski's previous Mobile Chernobyl bill, S. 608, but support is still split almost evenly along party lines in the Senate. The Senate has, for the past 4 years, provided the necessary votes to sustain the veto that President Clinton has threatened each year. We believe this bill may go to the Senate Floor very soon. We believe that President Clinton will veto this bill in its current form. Our job is to pressure our own Senators -- and to network with others else!QW! to pressure their Senators -- to vote no on S. 1287. We must ensure that enough Senators vote no on S. 1287 to sustain the President's promised veto. Such a veto-override-proof margin in the Senate is what has stopped Mobile Chernobyl from becoming law all these years. Thanks to the hard work of folks like you all over the country, we have won this fight time and time again. Now is the time to win it once more!
Very significantly, this present fight against S. 1287 overlaps with other important fights. One such fight is to prevent the Department of Energy (DOE) from weakening its site suitability requirements for Yucca Mountain. Another important fight is to prevent the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from becoming the standard setting agency for radiation protection at Yucca Mountain, for NRC's standards would be much weaker than the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA). Yet another important fight is to challenge weaknesses in the EPA's own revised standards for the Yucca Mountain repository, which were just recently released to the public. Watch for NIRS alerts in coming weeks for how you can join these important fights, by participating in the upcoming DOE public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Yucca Mountain repository, by commenting on the problems in EPA's revised standards, and more. All of our efforts on these various fronts will help stop the insanity of the Mobile Chernobyl and the Screw Nevada bills.
The most important single thing to do right at this moment, however, is to take action to oppose S. 1287! And remember, if you have questions or ideas, please don't hesitate to contact NIRS high-level nuclear waste specialist, Kevin Kamps.
Share with your Senators the following REASONS TO OPPOSE S. 1287. See further below for fuller discussions of these points.
S. 1287 WOULD:
ENDANGER HEALTH For THOUSANDS OF GENERATIONS TO COME
SEVERELY WEAKEN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION STANDARDS
RISK NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION
STILL LAUNCH UNWISE, UNNECESSARY & UNPRECEDENTED NUMBERS OF NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSPorTS
STILL LEAD TO 100'S OF INEVITABLE NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSPorT ACCIDENTS
LOCATE THE WorLD'S LARGEST NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP IN A LEAKING, ACTIVE EARTHQUAKE ZONE
PLACE THE BURDEN OF NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL DIRECTLY ON TAXPAYERS
AUTHorIZE RISKY PRIVATE NUCLEAR WASTE VENTURES
INITIATE WEAKENED, RADICAL NEW PRACTICES IN RADIATION STANDARD SETTING
DISCUSSION OF TALKING POINTS:
Endangerment of health for thousands of generations to come:
S 1287 would prohibit protection for people living near the world's largest nuclear waste dump and mandate a fatal cancer rate averaging one chance in 1000. Total cancer incidence due to radiation exposure would be roughly twice that. S 1287's standard exceeds, by 1000 times, the "1 death in a million" standard applied to practices that will cause avoidable deaths among the general public. A vote for this bill is a vote for more cancer. The waste that is governed by these laws contains 95% of the radioactivity of the Nuclear Age, and will be hazardous for more than 300,000 years or 10,000 human generations. Millions would be at risk over time.
Lowering environmental protection standards:
In addition to failing to protect the public's health, the environment and property would also be at risk. By designating the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to set the standards for a Yucca Mountain waste site, the Environmental Protection Agency is explicitly excluded from its current mandate under law to set radiation protection standards. Further, NRC would be forbidden, by law, to set release limits for these deadly wastes (more than 1% of which is plutonium), or to specifically protect groundwater resources. Department of Energy data shows that a Yucca Mountain repository will leak, and do so remarkably fast. This is why in 1998 over 200 environmental and public interest organizations petitioned the Secretary of Energy to disqualify Yucca now and start over on the nation's nuclear waste program.
Spread of nuclear weapons proliferation:
Senator Murkowski's bill was inspired by those who would reverse the U.S. policy on the reprocessing of civilian nuclear fuel and the separation of plutonium. While the promise of plutonium destruction is appealing to some, with only minor adjustments these technologies become plutonium production factories. This shift in U.S. policy would undercut every effort we make to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and use of plutonium as a commodity, which clearly opens the door to easier diversion of this deadly material.
Unwise, unnecessary, and unprecedented numbers of nuclear waste transports:
S 1287 still triggers Mobile Chernobyl, the largest nuclear waste shipping campaign in history. Tens of thousands of shipments are proposed, and would travel our nation's roads and rails. Waste would be moved to the Yucca Mountain site for storage in 2007, crossing 43 states, in containers each holding 40 - 200 atomic-bombs worth of radioactivity. This waste delivers a lethal dose if unshielded. Nuclear waste would travel past the homes of 50 million people, and continue for more than 30 years. It is unwise and unnecessary to move the waste to a site that is not fit to isolate it.
Hundreds of nuclear waste transport accidents are inevitable:
While the bill contains much more careful treatment of nuclear waste transport than previous proposed high-level waste legislation, the fact is that transportation accidents will happen, and cost a lot. The Department of Energy has projected the impact of an accident causing the release of a small amount of nuclear waste (1380 curies) in a rural area. Such an accident could contaminate a 42 square-mile area, require 460 days to clean-up (as much as can be cleaned up, that is) at a cost of $620 million. An urban accident would be many times this.
Congress licensing the nation's largest nuclear waste dump on a leaking, active earthquake zone?!:
S 1287 says "NRC shall issue a license" for nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain. Standards may be applied, but the license shall be granted. Moving this waste to Yucca Mountain makes no sense, but even some experts who support the plan have recognized that waste handling (such as repackaging) which requires a fuel pool is extremely unwise at this highly unstable site. Constant seismic activity has logged more than 600 earthquakes over 2.5 in the last 20 years within a 50-mile radius of the site. Yucca Mountain cannot meet existing regulations for siting a fuel pool. Once again the nuclear industry would be getting a congressional waiver at the expense of safety, health and the environment. This bill takes us away from a responsible waste policy, not towards it. In addition, the DOE's own studies have revealed that water flow through Yucca Mountain is taking place at a much faster rate than expected. DOE's studies reveal that a Yucca Mountain repository would leak massive amounts of radioactivity into the groundwater, exposing people downstream to deadly doses of radiation.
Place the burden of nuclear waste disposition directly on the taxpayer:
Current law says the cost of interim nuclear waste storage is the responsibility of the waste generator. Placing this storage cost on the Nuclear Waste Fund, which two separate independent auditors have shown to be inadequate for the current program, guarantees that shortfalls will be covered by the taxpayer, not those who benefited from the production of these deadly wastes.
Authorize risky private nuclear waste ventures:
Current law has a provision to prevent multiple privately owned waste sites away from reactors. If passed, this bill would legitimize these sites. S. 1287 would also give them federal business, as it is likely that many utilities would opt for removal of the waste by the Department of Energy as the most attractive option from the veritable smorgasbord of options offered for how the taxpayer can help make nuclear power more competitive by lowering the liabilities of this type of energy production.
Radical practices in radiation standard setting:
The methodology that would be mandated by this new law for setting a radiation standard to govern the disposition of the vast majority of the radioactivity that has resulted from nuclear activities is not standard; it is radical. The traditional approach, used internationally to set radiation protection standards is to posit a "maximally exposed individual" - the individual at (or near) highest risk from the radiation. S 1287 would require that a group of people be used instead and averaging be used, categorically excluding protection of the maximally exposed individual. Further, S 1287 prohibits inclusion of unborn children in the "critical group" since the unborn are more than 10 times more sensitive to radiation hazards than adults. This would be only the second time that such standard setting method was used. This huge load of radiation requires the most conservative approach to protection possible and should consider the unborn child as the maximally exposed individual. Any other approach is not protective enough.
A LITTLE MorE BACKGROUND ON S. 1287:
Murkowski's S. 1287, considered a "compromise" by some because it tones down some of the worst features of his previous versions of the Mobile Chernobyl bill, is still not responsible nuclear waste
policy. What's more, if S. 1287 were to pass the Senate, those "even worse" components of earlier versions of the bill could simply be re-added to S. 1287 during the House-Senate conference committee. Senators who had been lured into voting for S. 1287 because it wasn't as bad as earlier versions would then find it difficult to change their vote on the bill coming out of conference committee, even though those "even worse" components had been added back on.
S. 1287, approved by the Senate Energy Committee but mostly along a party line vote, would continue the interim storage of high-level nuclear waste at reactor sites !QW! the waste is produced. The DOE would take title and assume liability for the waste, including all storage costs. This payoff to the nuclear industry is offered in exchange for a settlement of the current legal dispute resulting from the arbitrary 1998 deadline, established by the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). The NWPA required DOE to start taking the waste away to a repository, even though the 1998 deadline was utterly impossible to meet. Alternately, the DOE might compensate utilities for their storage costs if the utility prefers to retain title and handle the storage itself. No matter what way you slice it, ratepayers and taxpayers would be giving the nuclear industry a huge corporate welfare check.
One way t look at this is that we have basically won on the issue of centralized interim storage. When we all took up this fight in 1994, the date for operation of a "temporary" dump next to Yucca Mountain was 1998. It is now 1999, and centralized interim storage is off the table. Congratulations to all who have helped generate pressure on your Members of Congress to win this victory. But the fight goes on. We have to defeat S. 1287, so that Senator Murkowski cannot sneak centralized interim storage and other bad things back onto the table during conference committee!
Taken together,the provisions of S. 1287 roll back the few remaining protections in today's law that might prevent the mistake of putting the vast majority of our nuclear waste onto the roads and rails and then dumping them in a leaking hole at Yucca Mountain. This is not responsible nuclear waste policy.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our efforts to defeat this dangerous legislation.
Mary Olson and Kevin Kamps
Nuclear Information & Resource Service
1424 16th St. N.W., Suite 404
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone (202) 328-0002
Fax (202) 462-2183
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