For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 20, 2002


REID REBUFFS LATEST REPUBLICAN ATTEMPT TO APPROVE YUCCA MOUNTAIN

Urges Senate colleagues to not let nuclear industry money influence their vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Harry Reid today countered the latest attempt by Republicans to move forward on Yucca Mountain. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) called on the Senate to vote quickly on passing Yucca Mountain. Senator Reid immediately rebuffed the attempt. Excerpts of Senator Murkowskiís and Senator Reidís remarks from the Senate floor this morning follow.

(MR. MURKOWSKI)

I would hope the majority leader would bring this issue to the floor shortly. I and others are looking forward to working with him. Senator Lott and others, (will) try to come to an agreement to move the Yucca Mountain issue. However, should the majority leader choose not to bring this up and ask that the Republicans do it, well we are prepared to oblige. The process laid out is unique in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. It was intended to eliminate any opportunity -- any opportunity to delay, impede, frustrate or obstruct the Senate and House votes on this creating resolution. That is the reason that this expedited procedure was put into the act. And as Senator Craig pointed out last week, this was very specific language and it provides that any senator on either side may move to proceed to consideration of the resolution... This act is long overdue. It's an obligation of this body. The House of Representatives has done its job and the Senate... should do its job.

(MR. REID)

I've heard my friend, the distinguished Senator from Alaska, the junior Senator from Alaska speak as I've heard the senior senator from Idaho speak on several occasions the last few days. And I have chosen not to respond because what my friends have spoken is what we've heard many, many times. We have the situation that the American people are now focusing on. The focus for many years has been whether Yucca Mountain is a suitable site for repository.

Scientifically, that has fallen apart for a number of reasons. One is that under the statute, Yucca Mountain and/or any other site was supposed to be a facility that would geologically protect the American people from nuclear waste. Well, Yucca Mountain didn't work. They learned that geologically, you couldn't do that because of fault lines, because of water tables and many other things. So they decided well, we'll use yucca mountain anyway but we'll build an encasement and we'll put it down in the hole and we'll have the waste be in this container in yucca mountain.

Now people are no longer focusing on yucca mountain. They're not focusing on Yucca Mountain because they've come to the realization you have to get it there some way. We're not going to wake up one morning and suddenly you're going to find 77,000 tons -- thatís how much is around the country at this stage in the different reactors -- you're not suddenly going to find it there one morning. No, you're going to have to haul it. We've learned they're going to have to haul it by water. They're going to have to haul it by train. And they're going to have to haul it by truck. And, they can haul all they want, but about 50% of the waste is always going to be in these reactor sites. You can't get rid of it. Because of its life. It's going to there be for five years and then you have to determine how to move it. We've known since September 11 that you'd have a lot of difficulty moving anything dangerous on the highways of this country. The most poisonous substance known to man is plutonium. That's the product in these spent fuel rods. There's a web site up now thatís been up since last Tuesday. You can punch in an address, whether it's Georgia, whether it's Nevada, Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island and you will find instantaneously how close nuclear waste will travel next -- how close it will be to your home, the address you punch in here. Since Tuesday, they've had about -- over 100,000 people who have focused on that, who have made hits on that site.

And people all over this country are now realizing that nuclear waste is not a Nevada problem, it's their problem. So, my friend from Alaska, my friend from Idaho can come here and talk all they want but people who are eminent scientists and are experienced in things dealing with transportation, for example, the former head of the National Safety Transportation Board, Jim Hall, has told a number of people that you shouldn't do this, you can't do it.

People say okay what do you want to do with it? That's very easy. Leave it where it is. You can leave it in dry cask storage containers. You can encase them with lead. You can leave them in cement. You can do all types of thing on-site that you can't do when you haul, it's too heavy to haul. So the majority leader is absolutely right. He does not like this. He thinks it's wrongheaded. And the people that have for 20 years been wined and dined by the nuclear power industry -- one of the great trips they take is to Las Vegas. They say, come on, we'll show you Yucca Mountain. They whip them out to Yucca Mountain for a few hours and then they put them up in the fancy hotels of Las Vegas for a weekend or so. And so they've gotten hundreds of staff out there to look at this. And we know how powerful staff is. They come back and say, "oh, that's great, that repository out there." I acknowledge that my job is easier than my friend, the junior senator from Nevada. My job is easier because this battle's been going on for awhile. President Clinton vetoed a proposal to change environmental standards at Yucca Mountain. That veto was upheld by a vote of the Senate. 33 Democrats, two Republicans. They also tried to establish Yucca Mountain as a temporary place, an interim storage site. President Clinton interceded and that was soundly defeated. Now, the reason I say my job is easier than my friend from Nevada is I'm working with people who have not voted against this in the past. Senators who have voted for my position in the past. And we had a president that was --even though he had a nuclear repository in Arkansas, he understood that this wasn't the right thing to do. But my friends on this side of the aisle must do the right thing. Forget about -- and I don't say this negatively, because I take campaign contributions also. But there are times when you have to say, you know, I've taken campaign contributions from everybody but that isn't how I have to vote. They give me that money because they think I am an honorable person trying to do the right thing. And the fact that for 20-odd years millions of dollars have been given in campaigns around this country, people have to set that aside. They have to do the right thing. It's not easy to do but they have to do the right thing. And I'm not here in any way trying to demagogue the issue other than saying there are occasions when people have to do the right thing. And for my friend, John Ensign, and for the people of this country, my friends on the other side of the aisle must do what is fair and understand that the transportation of nuclear waste is not safe. The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said last week if this bill does not go forward and the governor of Nevada's veto is upheld, he said it's no big deal, we can handle the nuclear waste where it is. This is what the chairman of the nuclear regulatory commission said last week. So this mad rush is because the nuclear power lobby is extremely powerful. But for the good of the people of this country, whether you have a nuclear reactor in your state or not, you can't haul it safely. It's better left where it is. So I -- I guess the reason I came down, I just had it up to here on all these do-good speeches about what a righteous thing they're doing bringing this forward. It's the wrong thing to do. It's not a Nevada-related issue. It's an issue that affects everybody in this country. And for anyone to even suggest intimate that the Defense Authorization Bill, should be set aside to take up this? We're talking about giving our men and women in the military additional resources to fight the war on terror, to make this country secure. To even think that we would set this aside for that is, to me, distasteful.

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