Environment News Service

AmeriScan: February 8, 2000

DEBATE BEGINS ON YUCCA MOUNTAIN NUCLEAR WASTE BILL

WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Senate begins debate today on a controversial bill to complete a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Last minute negotiations between the bill’s supporters and the Department of Energy failed to produce a compromise on which federal agency will have jurisdiction over the site’s radiation exposure standards, making it likely that President Bill Clinton will veto the measure. The legislation was to be reviewed by the Senate last week, but delaying tactics by the bill’s opponents, led by Nevada Democratic Senators Richard Bryan and Harry Reid, pushed back consideration until this week.

The delay gave the bill’s sponsor, Alaska Republican Senator Frank Murkowski, an opportunity to negotiate with the DOE over the radiation jurisdiction. The DOE and the White House favor radiation standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Murkowski and the nuclear industry prefer less stringent standards proposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Senate could vote today to restrict debate on the bill to 30 hours, paving the way for a final vote later this week. Most Democrats are expected to vote against the bill, and they may have the required 34 nay votes to sustain the predicted Presidential veto. If approved, the Yucca Mountain high level nuclear waste repository could be accepting nuclear weapons and commercial reactor waste as early as 2007.

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