Leahy: Nuclear Waste Report Is Impetus For Congress To Forge Sensible Waste Storage Program

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy

On The Draft Report On Nuclear Waste Management

Of The Blue Ribbon Commission On America’s Nuclear Future

July 29, 2011

In its draft of its final report today on nuclear waste management in the United States, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has made constructive recommendations.  If appropriately implemented, their conclusions can become an action plan to renew confidence in the nation’s nuclear waste management program.  Forging the structure of a sensible and workable program is not an option, it is an imperative.  We have gone too long without a plan, leaving waste piling up across the country and leaving many communities vulnerable to nuclear disasters. 

The Commission’s recommendation for an independent organization to run a national waste management program could well be the right way to move a program forward.  The federal government has collected about $25 billion so far from nuclear utilities and ratepayers to finance a consolidated waste management program, but the funds remain largely inaccessible.  Meanwhile, it is costing taxpayers billions of dollars as the government pays damages to utilities for not honoring its contractual commitment to accept this waste.  It is time for the federal government to live up to its obligation to use these set-aside funds for the consolidated storage of the nation’s nuclear waste.  But choosing appropriate storage sites should not be unilateral decisions without local input.

Forcing communities to live long-term with nuclear waste has done nothing but generate frustration, animosity and distrust in today’s deeply flawed system.  I could not agree more with the Commission’s recognition of the fact that host communities, states, and tribes need to have their interests adequately protected and their wellbeing improved if a storage facility is located nearby.  The federal government, or a newly created waste management organization, needs to work closely with state, local, and tribal governments on siting interim and permanent waste facilities.  This should be the cornerstone of a successful waste management program.

Where legislative action is necessary, Congress should work promptly and thoughtfully to fulfill its obligation to create an effective waste management program.  Citizens in our communities, like those in Vermont who live near one of the nation’s 104 reactors, deserve a national plan to move forward with the safe consolidation and storage of nuclear waste.

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