National PTA Opposes Yucca Mountain

July 8, 2002

U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

The National PTA has a long-standing position supporting hazardous waste management practices that protect the health and safety of children and that provide communities with health and safety information regarding the transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. This week the Senate will consider a resolution to override Nevada's veto of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project. National PTA believes there are many unanswered questions about the Project's potential risk to children, families, and communities and urges you to defeat this measure.

The $50 billion Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada is scheduled to open in 2010 and will hold as much as 77,000 tons of radioactive material, most of which will be shipped to the site from 131 nuclear power facilities in 39 states. Nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain would span nearly 40 years, with approximately 2,760 shipments per year. Nuclear waste would travel through at least 44 states by truck, barge, or train going through more than 100 cities with populations of 100,000 or greater. Given that the number of shipments per year to Yucca is far greater than the approximately 70 shipments that occur annually now, the potential for accidents is expanded exponentially and children are at higher risk for radiation exposure.

Most Americans are unaware of how, and how much, nuclear waste will be shipped to Yucca Mountain. The unprecedented expansion in the number of nuclear waste shipments to Nevada and the increased distance hazardous material will travel across the United States place children, youth and families at great risk. As a result, a federally initiated public awareness campaign to inform communities about transportation routes and safety plans should be fully developed and activated before Congress approves the project.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires that the Department of Energy (DOE) prove the Yucca repository will be able to safely contain the radioactive nuclear waste for 10,000 years. This assurance should be demonstrated to the public before the project is approved. While the DOE contends that nickel alloy containers will resist corrosion for 10,000 years others disagree. Many contend there is not enough scientific research to show how the metal will perform for 10,000 years. In fact, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a congressionally created independent panel, called DOE's technical basis for the waste site performance estimates "weak to moderate."

Equally troubling is that nuclear casks do emit some radiation, which could be harmful to children and adults who may be exposed to emissions for a period of time.

Government estimates are that more than 123 million people live near the DOE's potential highway routes, and 106 million live in counties along potential rail routes. Of particular concern to National PTA is the health and safety of children who live in these communities. How will the government ensure the safety of children living near those routes? What are the health risks to children who attend schools near the proposed routes, some of which could have several shipments passing through daily? What plans does the government have to ensure the personnel in schools, and response teams in those areas near shipping routes, have evacuation plans. Would there be federal funding to train educators and school administers to prepare for a response to a high-level radioactive nuclear waste accident emergency? When routes are selected, will the number of nearby schools factor into the decision?

The public must be given answers to these and other questions, such as what the emergency response plan will be if accidents occur, what are the potential effects of a nuclear waste accident, or what security measures will be utilized to protect against potential terrorist attacks.

In short, more public discussion and education is needed before moving to approve the Yucca Mountain site. National PTA asks that you vote "NO" on the resolution to override Nevada's veto of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.

Shirley Igo
President, National PTA