Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing entitled “Legislative Hearing on a Discussion Draft Bill, Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019.”
The hearing featured testimony from Timothy O’Connor, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer of Xcel Energy; Anthony O’Donnell, commissioner of Maryland Public Service Commission; and Geoffrey Fettus, senior attorney at the Climate and Clean Energy Program at Natural Resources Defense Council.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“America launched the Manhattan Project to win World War II.
“The project was unprecedented in time, scale, and urgency.
“It also produced nuclear waste, which our country is still managing 75 years later.
“President Eisenhower launched the Atoms for Peace program in 1953.
“This established the United States as the global leader for the peaceful, civilian use of nuclear energy.
“America continues to generate the most nuclear power in the world.
“Radioactive material is also used for life-saving medical procedures, for oil and gas production, and for numerous other industrial applications.
“With the immense benefits of nuclear technology comes a responsibility to permanently and safely dispose of the byproduct material.
“Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the federal government studied dozens of locations to identify a suitable nuclear waste disposal site.
“These sites were located in 36 states around the country, including several represented on this committee including Indiana, New York, South Dakota, Illinois, North Dakota, Alabama, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, and my home state of Wyoming.
“In 1982, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
“The Act formally established a comprehensive nuclear waste management policy.
“In doing so, Washington made a promise to the American people.
“The Department of Energy would dispose of spent nuclear fuel by 1998.
“Ratepayers began paying Washington to fund this program.
“Over the last 35 years, ratepayers have paid more than 40 billion dollars to keep their end of the deal.
“Maintaining our nuclear weapons deterrent and powering America’s submarines and aircraft carriers also creates nuclear waste.
“The Act also provided for the safe disposal of this material.
“From 1982 to 1987, the department conducted multiple, in-depth scientific and technical analysis of targeted disposal sites.
“The Yucca Mountain site, located on federal government-owned land in Nevada, consistently ranked at or near the top of those scientific studies.
“The site is located adjacent to an 8,400 square-mile area of U.S. government owned land.
“That area is larger than the state of Massachusetts.
“In 1987, Congress selected the Yucca Mountain site to host the nation’s first disposal site.
“After 15 years of detailed engineering and scientific work, President Bush formally recommended the site in 2002.
“The state of Nevada officially objected to the recommendation.
“With a bipartisan vote, Congress overrode the state’s veto.
“All of this followed the process established by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
“In 2008, the Department of Energy submitted the Yucca Mountain license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“The commission staff conducted its own technical analysis, known as the Safety Evaluation Report.
“The five-volume, 1,900-page independent report found the Department’s Yucca Mountain design would meet all regulatory requirements.
“Today, Washington is over 20 years late in keeping its word.
“As a result, American taxpayers are footing the bill.
“Taxpayers pay over two million dollars per day in legal costs.
“Cumulatively, taxpayers will be liable for over $35 billion.
“This number increases with every day Washington delays.
“We can’t walk away from the law of the land.
“We can’t start over and let another 40 years pass to solve this challenge.
“The discussion draft before us today is a solution.
“It is nearly identical to the text of legislation passed by the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 340 to 72.
“Over 60 percent of House Democrats voted for that bill.
“The draft makes critical reforms to our nation’s nuclear waste management policy.
“It authorizes the Department of Energy to contract with private companies for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.
“It provides the state of Nevada the opportunity to present their scientific opposition to the use of the Yucca Mountain site to independent judges in a legal proceeding.
“It reforms the program’s financing mechanism to protect ratepayers.
“And it allows host communities to partner with the federal government to receive benefits.
“Nuclear energy is an essential part of our energy portfolio.
“It is also critical to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“If we are serious about addressing climate change, we must be serious about preserving and expanding nuclear energy use.
“That means keeping our commitment to the 121 communities in 39 states where nuclear waste is located.
“Safely disposing of nuclear waste is a national problem.
“It requires a national solution.
“Just as our committee did with legislation promoting advanced nuclear technologies last year, I would like to find bipartisan agreement to move legislation to get our nuclear waste program back on track.
“This morning’s hearing is the first step in that process.”