A vote for S 1287 would result in:
- 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 nuclear 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 and unnecessary nuclear waste transportation: S 1287 still triggers Mobile Chernobyl, the largest nuclear waste shipping campaign in history. 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.
- 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 possible) at a cost of $620 million. An urban accident would be many times this.
- Congress licensing the nation’s largest nuclear waste storage site on geologically unstable ground: 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.
- 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 and also give them federal business since it is likely that many utilities would opt for removal of the waste by the Department of Energy from the veritable smorgasbord of options 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.
Support responsible nuclear waste policyProtect Our Future:
Oppose S 1287
The only cure for nuclear waste accidents is prevention!
For more information contact Kevin Kamps or Mary Olson, Nuclear Information & Resource Service 301-270-6477