State Seal From the office of
Governor Kenny Guinn
DATE: March 19, 2002
CONTACT: Greg Bortolin
PHONE: 775-684-5670
LAS VEGAS: 702-486-2500
CELL: 775-230-3302
FAX: 775-684-7198


NRC, nuclear industry admit Yucca Mountain not necessary

Spent nuclear fuel at plant sites not threat to national security or public safety

CARSON CITY - Despite assertions to the contrary, the nuclear industry does not need Yucca Mountain for safety or security reasons, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is now admitting that spent fuel at the nation's nuclear plants does not pose any threat or safety concern to the public.

Richard Meserve, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, admitted last Wednesday that nuclear waste could remain safely stored at power plants for "decades" if Yucca Mountain does not go forward.

"If Yucca Mountain were to fail because of Congressional action, that does not mean all of a sudden from a policy point of view that the country is at a stalemate and is confronting imminent disaster," Meserve said at an agency conference last Wednesday. "We do have the capacity to store the materials safely for a period of decades."

"Meserve's conclusions have been affirmed for years", says Gov. Kenny Guinn, pointing to testimony before the Congress in 1981 by the former Chairman of Carolina Power & Light, Sherwood H. Smith, Jr.:

The reason why the utilities have consistently urged the Federal Government to implement promptly a waste management program are principally neither economic nor technical. Spent fuel can continue to be stored safely and relatively inexpensively in spent fuel storage pools, both at reactor sites and at other locations. Both spent fuel and vitrified high-level wastes can be stored for centuries safely in above-ground or sub-surface "temporary" storage.

"This candid assessment needs to be remembered today," Gov. Guinn said. "Contrary to industry assertions, there is remaining capacity in spent fuel pools, and the ability to utilize dry cask storage for years until a safe, suitable, and viable alternative for permanent storage can be found." In fact, the Surry plant in Virginia just submitted an application to the NRC to extend the permit for their dry cask storage for another 40 years," he added. "For utilities to suggest that they cannot use dry cask storage is untrue - it's being done right now, it is approved by the NRC and DOE, and it is simple. What the industry does not want to admit is that this is a viable, approved alternative to Yucca Mountain."

"Historically Nevada has always fulfilled its national security obligations and no one needs to look any further than the Nevada Test Site or the number of military bases here," Gov. Guinn said. "We take national security very seriously, and this latest revelation is yet another example of how the Department of Energy and nuclear industry are inappropriately using false claims of "national security" to push this ill-conceived project forward."

"As we have been saying for years, the risk of transporting nuclear waste is not only a Nevada issue but a national issue. This has become even clearer by the recent "dirty bomb" incident, and the real likelihood of accidents and terrorist attacks as thousands of tons of waste travels through this country.

If we are truly concerned about national security and the safety of our citizens, the solution is not Yucca Mountain - we should utilize the safe, proven short-and long-term alternatives. Congress must not let the industry stampede it into making an unnecessary decision that will affect generations of American citizens negatively for centuries to come."