406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Frank R. Lautenberg


Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s capabilities and responsibilities for short- and long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.


Nearly fifty-two percent of my State’s electricity comes from nuclear power. Across the nation, twenty percent of our electricity is from nuclear power plants. As we seek ways to use less foreign oil and do more to protect our environment, nuclear power may become more central to our energy portfolio.

But when making decisions about nuclear power, we must always put the health and safety of our citizens first. That is why the question of disposal of nuclear waste is so difficult. Since 1984, our long-term option has been Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But with questions about health standards, falsified data, and the safety of transporting waste from all over the country, its completion date drifts further into the future every day.

Senator Domenici has offered an alternative plan: to create interim storage sites in states with nuclear reactors or at regional facilities for up to 25 years. While I appreciate the search for a solution, I’m concerned about this approach, too. Under the Domenici plan, the Department of Energy would have the authority to override state law. A state’s Governor could recommend the best site—and the Department of Energy could just say “no.”

There is also the question of the safety of transporting nuclear waste to interim sites in dozens of states. It is risky enough to have to move nuclear waste once. To move from these short-term sites to a long-term one, we’d need to move it twice.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on all of these challenges. Thank you Mr. Chairman.