2002 Scorecard Vote
Radioactive waste is not just one of the world's most dangerous substances, it is one of the most difficult to safely store. 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 nuclear waste from the nation's nuclear facilities. In 1987, Congress amended the act to designate Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada, as the sole site for consideration as a permanent waste repository.
Yucca Mountain is poorly suited to permanent nuclear waste storage. Thirty-three earthquake faults intersect the area and the proposed storage site is situated above an aquifer that provides drinking water to a nearby community. Moreover, because most of the nation's nuclear waste is located on or near the East Coast, transporting the waste to Yucca Mountain would involve extensive truck, rail and barge shipments: an estimated 105,000 shipments of irradiated fuel would be moved across the country over a period of nearly 40 years.
A report issued in December 2001 by the General Accounting Office identified 293 "significant unresolved technical" issues pertaining to the Yucca Mountain site. A January 2002 letter by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board found that the "technical basis" for the Energy Department's performance estimates for Yucca Mountain was "weak to moderate." Nevertheless, in February 2002, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham officially recommended the Yucca Mountain site to President Bush, who approved the recommendation and referred it to Congress.
The Governor of Nevada vetoed the site recommendation in early April, but on July 9, 2002, the Senate, by a 60-39 vote, moved to override Nevada's veto and proceed with the repository (Senate roll call vote 167). NO is the pro-environment vote. The House had already passed a similar resolution (House vote 6). With congressional approval in hand, the Energy Department is now preparing to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license for the Yucca Mountain facility.