1997 Scorecard Vote
In 1982 Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, directing the Department of Energy to develop two deep burial sites (repositories) for permanent disposal of "high-level nuclear waste" (spent fuel) from nuclear power plants. In 1987 Congress amended the Act to designate only one permanent repository to be located at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. The 1987 amendment also prohibits an interim waste dump from being located in a state that is being studied for a permanent repository. For the past 10 years, the Department of Energy has been assessing whether Yucca Mountain is a viable permanent waste site. The assessment is scheduled to be completed in 1998. Serious technical problems at the site, including the area's seismic (earthquake) activity and the potential for groundwater remain unresolved. For example, it is estimated that at least 33 known earthquake faults lie in Yucca Mountain's vicinity. It is widely accepted that the groundwater at Yucca Mountain will be contaminated, and some scientists believe that the contaminated groundwater will move through the ground and reach the environment in less than 1,000 years, instead of many thousands of years as Department of Energy officials conclude. In the meantime, nuclear power plants have been storing spent nuclear fuels on-site. Because on-site storage areas are reported to be nearly filled at some sites, the nuclear power industry has pushed for a federal interim storage facility until a permanent repository is completed.
S. 104, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK), would establish an above-ground "interim" nuclear waste dump near the proposed permanent repository at Yucca Mountain. The facility, to be opened in 2003, would accept a total of 40,000 metric tons of irradiated fuel that would be transported through 43 states. S. 104 would also severely weaken environmental standards for nuclear waste disposal, weaken allowable radiation exposure standards at the site, and force dangerous radioactive waste onto the nations roads and rails without adequate safety standards. In addition, establishment of a centralized "interim" nuclear waste storage site is likely to create a bias in favor of siting the permanent repository in Nevada, regardless of the scientific findings about Yucca Mountain. Prior to the Senate vote, President Clinton promised to veto the bill.
On April 15, 1997, the Senate passed S. 104, 65 - 34. NO is the pro-environment vote. (See House vote 13).