Statement by Congresswoman Shelley Berkley opposing H.R.2983 Price-Anderson Reauthorization Act of 2001

(House of Representatives - November 27, 2001)

Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 2983. This legislation is nothing more than a giant government subsidy to keep the nuclear industry afloat.

Opposition to Price-Anderson runs the political gamut. Environmental groups like Public Citizen oppose Price-Anderson because it hurts our environment. Rather than investing resources in renewable energy, this bill would further our reliance on nuclear energy, thus exacerbating our problems with nuclear waste.

On the right, even the conservative Cato Institute states that if nuclear power is a better investment than gas or coal-fired power, then no amount of government help is necessary. If it is not, then no amount of government help will make it so.

This legislation mandates that it is the American taxpayer who will pay the financial costs of cleaning up a nuclear accident. It has been estimated that a worst-case scenario accident could cost more than $300 billion to clean up. The total insurance coverage provided under this act is $9.4 billion. It is the American taxpayer who will make up the difference.

Madam Speaker, both Liberals and Conservatives oppose Price-Anderson because it artificially supports an industry that is not trusted by the American public, and not supported by the American investor. Nuclear energy is dangerous, and it is this danger that prevents investors from being interested in nuclear power.

Price-Anderson not only subsidizes the production of nuclear energy, it also subsidizes the production of nuclear waste. Although the nuclear industry has lobbied for years to dump its garbage at Yucca Mountain, located just outside my rapidly-growing hometown of Las Vegas, it is not a safe place to permanently store nuclear waste. The geology of Yucca Mountain is unsound. Nuclear waste risks contaminating the ground water throughout southern Nevada and California.

Even if this administration is successful in its efforts to ram a nuclear dump down our throats, it will take more than 50 years before 77,000 tons of nuclear waste is moved from its current locations across the United States and relocated to Yucca Mountain.

At the same time, Price-Anderson subsidies keep the nuclear industry afloat, creating more and more waste, so even as the waste is shipped, more waste is being created and stored at the reactors. Any central repository represents only a temporary solution. Waste will continue to be stored at taxpayer-subsidized reactors, posing both security and environmental hazards.

I have heard representatives of the nuclear interests argue that the events of September 11 emphasize the need for a central repository. This is not just an erroneous statement, but the most blatant political misuse of those tragic events. A central repository would do nothing to diminish the threat at active reactor sites and would offer only one more attractive target. When we include each individual nuclear waste transport, there would be thousands more inviting targets for potential terrorist attacks.

Madam Speaker, I oppose the reauthorization of Price-Anderson because it makes our country a more dangerous place to live. Nuclear energy cannot survive on its own, and I think it is nothing short of highway robbery that we ask the American taxpayer to subsidize a product that endangers their very health and safety.

Nuclear energy creates Nuclear waste. There is no way of getting around that. Long term options for disposing of nuclear waste, such as transmutation, are emerging, but they have not yet been fully developed. I would urge my colleagues to support research into the decontamination, and safe disposal, of nuclear waste, so we can solve this problem, once and for all. But in the meantime, I urge all my colleagues to oppose this measure until the nation finds a safe, realistic, and economically feasible method of dealing with nuclear waste.

Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support research on decontamination and safe disposal. I urge all of my colleagues to oppose this measure until the Nation finds a safe, realistic, and economically feasible method for dealing with nuclear waste.