Pahrump Valley Times

3/26/99

Nevada delegation rips interim storage bill

By HENRY BREAN

Nevada's elected officials are rallying together to block a bill that would establish an interim storage facility for high-level nuclear waste, most likely at the Nevada Test Site in Nye County.

Sens. Richard Bryan and Harry Reid joined forces Wednesday with Reps. Jim Gibbons and Shelley Berkley to testify against Senate Bill 608, this year's version of a similar interim storage measure that has been unsuccessfully introduced in each of the last three sessions of Congress.

Nevada's delegates argued that the waste can be stored safely where it is now - namely in storage ponds at power plants and other nuclear reactor sites across the country. Reid said that S 608 is "no better than the slew of earlier bills that have already gone down to defeat," except for one key difference: The current bill, sponsored by Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) concedes that spent nuclear fuel can be safely stored at individual reactor sites.

Reid, who also submitted testimony against the bill from Gov. Kenny Guinn. said that "instead of rehashing the same old tired arguments" the nuclear energy industry would be "better served to follow the advice of scientists and the U.S. Department of Energy and work on storing the waste safely on site.

President Clinton has promised to veto any legislation that designates Nevada for interim storage, but some political pundits believe sufficient support may be gathering to override that veto. Yucca Mountain, 20 miles east of Beatty, is the only site currently being studied for permanent storage of the nation's high-level radioactive waste - a project Nevada's congressional delegation is also fighting.

Berkley, who entered office in January, said S 608 "put expediency over public health and welfare. It throws out existing radiation safety standards and replaces them with dangerous levels of radiation that would be labeled 'acceptable.' It is unnecessary, it is unsafe, and it is unpatriotic."

The day after Berkley and her follow delegates testified against the bill, Sen. Pete Domenici (R.N.M.) made the surprise announcement that he would consider eliminating funding for Yucca Mountain in favor of a process called transmutation, which transforms high-level waste into a less noxious form.