Public Citizen

Public Citizen News Release

For Immediate Release: Jan. 7, 1999 Contact: Auke Piersma, (202) 546-4996 Booth Gunter, (202) 588-7741

Environmentalists and Consumers Blast the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Public Citizen denounced the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1999, introduced today by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), as a misguided and potentially disastrous attempt to subvert the formal scientific review process for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

The bill, H.R. 45, would establish a temporary storage site for thousands of tons of high- level waste now stored at nuclear plants across the country, sending the waste to Yucca Mountain, Nev., even before the site is formally designated as a repository for long-term storage.

"Nuclear utilities have a public relations problem and are pretending that moving the waste solves it," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "But this is another case of the nuclear industry seeking a taxpayer bailout. The reality is, this bill would only serve to increase political pressure to open Yucca Mountain to long-term storage, even though studies already show it's likely to leak dangerous radiation into the surrounding environment."

Transportation of the waste would expose 50 million Americans across 43 states to the risks of a deadly nuclear waste crash over the next 30 years, increase costs to taxpayers and undermine the ongoing scientific evaluation that is supposed to determine whether the Yucca Mountain site can safely isolate the waste.

Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, pointed out that the bill's sponsors took large campaign contributions from the nuclear industry during the 1998 election cycle. Upton received $24,750, and Towns took $38,663 from the industry.

"Rep. Upton and Rep. Towns are doing the industry's bidding after receiving large infusions of cash for their campaigns," Hauter said. "Their constituents are being taken for a ride, because the majority of this money came from out-of-state nuclear interests."

The bill would severely weaken environmental standards for nuclear waste disposition by exempting some of the most deadly substances on earth from established environmental, health and safety laws.

"Everyone knows truck and train wrecks occur almost daily," said Auke Piersma, energy policy analyst for the Critical Mass Energy Project. "How could any member of Congress assume we could transport 100,000 shipments of deadly radioactive waste without serious consequences?"

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