Alliance for Nuclear Accountability · Greenpeace · National Environmental Trust · Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force · Nuclear Information and Resource Service · Public Citizen · Sierra Club · U.S. Public Interest Research Group
May 11, 2005
Re: FY2006 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
Dear Energy and Water Subcommittee Member:
- As national environmental, public interest, and consumer organizations, we are writing to express our grave concern about the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2006 budget request for the Yucca Mountain Project, Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (i.e., reprocessing), and Nuclear Power 2010 program. As your subcommittee begins work on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, we urge you to eliminate funding for these programs that will only add to our nation’s radioactive waste problem. Please also oppose the inclusion of other anti-environmental provisions.
Nuclear power creates highly radioactive waste that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. No country in the world has figured out how to manage high-level radioactive waste. Despite almost two decades of pushing to make Yucca Mountain in Nevada the site of the U.S. high-level waste repository, it has not been shown scientifically to be suitable to safely store the waste. The project continues to be plagued by numerous management, scientific, and policy problems, such as the court’s decision last fall to throw out the EPA’s health standard for the site, cases of silicosis discovered among tunnel workers, and the failure of DOE to make publicly available all of its documents on the NRC’s online License Support Network.
Recent revelations that USGS scientists falsified data related to quality assurance and modeling of water flow through the ground further call into question the ability of the site to safely contain the waste. Water infiltration is one of the most crucial questions determining whether the site can safely contain the nation’s high-level radioactive waste. Faster water movement will cause the radioactive waste to migrate more rapidly through the ground to the aquifer, which is used for drinking water and irrigation. These emails also indicate that the scientists were under extreme pressure to prove that the site can work.
Criminal investigations by the DOE and USGS inspector generals, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, are ongoing. DOE has stated that it is conducting an investigation of the ramification on the license application. While these investigations are underway, it does not make sense to fund DOE to proceed with a license application that may be based on falsified data.
We ask you to cut $651 million from this program, halt DOE’s work on the license application, and require an independent evaluation of the matter.
With the uncertainty around Yucca Mountain, there has been a revived interest in “reprocessing,” the separation of plutonium and uranium from irradiated fuel rods, as a solution to our waste problem. France and England are held up as models of how commercial reprocessing can solve our waste problem. But the reality is that these countries also have massive quantities of highly radioactive waste with nowhere to go. In fact, France and England are dumping some of the waste into the sea, much to the ire of other European nations.
Reprocessing results in highly radioactive waste that must be safely stored away from people and the environment. In the United States, the DOE is still struggling to find a way to deal with the military reprocessing waste created during the Cold War. This waste is being stored in leaking tanks near the Savannah River and the Columbia River. Moreover, reprocessing is a security threat: more than 200 metric tons of plutonium from commercial reprocessing has been separated globally; this plutonium is thus vulnerable to theft. Reprocessing is also extremely expensive – approximately $70 billion have been spent globally trying to commercialize plutonium. The only private commercial reprocessing facility in the United States, West Valley in New York State, was an economic failure, reprocessing only one year’s worth of fuel in six years and resulting in 600,000 gallons of liquid highly radioactive waste that is still threatening the groundwater more than 20 years later.
We ask that you cut $70 million from this program and transfer the money to environmental cleanup programs.
New Nuclear Reactors
Encouraging companies to build new reactors by funding research and development, as well as half the cost for companies to apply for licenses to build new reactors, will mean more highly radioactive waste with no place to go. Continuing to use nuclear power will mean an infinite waste problem.
Moreover, the corporations that are benefiting from these subsidies are some the wealthiest companies in the world. Members of the consortia that are receiving taxpayer funding for Combined Construction and Operation License (COL) applications, including Bechtel, General Electric, and Duke Power, made more than $27.3 billion in combined profit in 2004. If these firms believed that the next generation of nuclear plants was a good investment and critical to their strategic mission, they would be fully capable of financing both the plants and the research themselves.
We ask that you cut $56 million from this program and transfer the money to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
We urge you to eliminate funding for these programs that will add to, not solve, our nation’s waste problem and security concerns. Please also oppose the inclusion of other anti-environmental provisions. If you have any questions about the above-mentioned concerns, please contact Michele Boyd at Public Citizen (202) 454-5134 .
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Nuclear Policy Analyst
Kevin S. Curtis
National Environmental Trust
Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Director, Energy Program
Director, Global Warming and Energy Team
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Arjun Makhijani, Plutonium End GameManaging Global Stocks of Separated Weapons-Usable Commercial and Surplus Nuclear Weapons Plutonium, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, January 2001, https://ieer.org/resource/reports/plutonium-end-game/. Separated commercial plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons and so-called “dirty bombs.”