2000 Scorecard Vote
Radioactive waste is one of the most dangerous substances on earth and remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. In 1982, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, directing the Department of Energy to develop two deep-burial sites for the permanent disposal of "high level nuclear waste" 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. In 1992, Congress passed legislation that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop site-specific radiation standards for Yucca Mountain.
For the past 13 years, the Energy Department has been studying whether Yucca Mountain is a viable permanent waste site. These studies have uncovered serious technical problems with the site. For example, at least 33 known earthquake faults lie in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain. Scientists also believe that groundwater at Yucca Mountain will become contaminated by radioactive wastes and that this contamination could reach the outside environment in less than 1,000 years. In 1999, EPA proposed a groundwater radiation standard for Yucca Mountain similar to that used for drinking water. However, because recent information shows that the site could exceed these standards, the nuclear industry, the Energy Department, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been pushing to weaken that standard.
On-site waste storage facilities are reported to be nearly full at some nuclear power plants, and the nuclear power industry is pushing for a federal interim storage facility until a permanent repository is completed. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 1287, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendments of 2000, which would allow some of the waste from nuclear power plants to be transported to Yucca Mountain before construction of the permanent repository is complete, forcing dangerous radioactive waste onto the nation's roads and rails. The final repository would accept a total of 40,000 metric tons of irradiated fuel, which would be shipped through 43 states at the risk of transport accidents involving nuclear waste. In addition, S. 1287 would undermine EPA's ability to set radiation standards by delaying its implementation of the standards for at least one year.
The Senate passed S. 1287 on February 10, 2000 by a 64–34 vote (Senate roll call vote 8). NO is the pro-environment vote. The House also passed the bill (House vote 10) but President Clinton subsequently vetoed it, and the Senate failed to achieve the two-thirds vote necessary to override his veto.