Mr. Chairman, protecting public health and safety should be the primary test in assessing nuclear waste disposal options. Yucca Mountain continues to fail that test.
The focus of the hearing today is the status of the Yucca Mountain project, including the establishment of radiation standards that will ensure that public health and the environment are protected.
EPA’s first effort to establish radiation standards was largely struck down by the DC Circuit for failing to comply with National Academy of Sciences recommendations.
EPA’s current proposal for radiation standards at Yucca Mountain has yet to be finalized, but has drawn criticism from an expert on nuclear issues for failing to ensure that the public does not face unacceptable cancer risks.
Technical problems with the Yucca Mountain project continue to raise red flags. A January 2006 order from the Department of Energy (DOE) has stopped all work on the repository because of quality assurance problems. Whether the plan to address the problems is successful remains to be seen.
On February 9 2006, the National Academy of Sciences called for DOE to further analyze and account for potential terrorist acts on the transportation of nuclear waste before large shipments take place. The National Academy of Sciences also called for among other things, additional analysis of safety measures for high intensity fires.
Clearly the potential risks associated with this project remain high. My longstanding concerns about this project have not been addressed.
My State of California is one of the most affected by the Yucca Mountain project, which is only 17 miles from the California border and Death Valley National Park.
Studies have shown that the groundwater under Yucca Mountain flows into Death Valley, one of the hottest and driest places on the earth. If radiation contaminates this groundwater, it could be the demise of the national park and the surrounding communities.
The threat posed by nuclear waste transport in California is also clear. Over 7.5 million people live within 1 mile of a possible nuclear transport route.
Yucca’s geology also remains a concern. Two active faults run through Yucca Mountain, though they do not cross the repository. Quakes of 5.6 and 4.4 on the Richter scale occurred in 1992 and 2002 just 12 miles away.
Strong science, good planning and public confidence must be part of any solution to the nuclear waste disposal problem. We have not achieved this at Yucca Mountain.
A nuclear waste repository poses dangers that have no parallel in human history. We must not short-circuit the vital scientific and public processes needed to address these dangers. No nuclear waste disposal project should move forward until health and safety of the public are assured.