- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The House voted yesterday to begin temporary storage of commercial nuclear waste at one or more federal facilities, fearing further delays in a proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada.

The directive was included in a $29.7 billion measure funding the Energy Department and came over the objections of lawmakers from Washington and South Carolina, two states where the waste from commercial power reactors might be located.

An attempt by Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, to strip the bill of $10 million for the interim-storage program failed 312-110. Just one Republican and the House’s one independent joined 108 Democrats in voting for the fund-stripping amendment, with 89 Democrats and 223 Republicans voting against it.

The House last night passed the overall Energy Department spending measure by a 416-13 vote.

While the legislation leaves it up to the Energy Department to select one or more interim-storage sites, a report accompanying the bill suggested the department’s Savannah River weapons facility in South Carolina, the Hanford complex in Washington state and a facility in Idaho as potential locations.

It also said the department should consider other federal sites, including closed defense bases for temporary storage. It calls on the energy secretary to produce a plan for interim storage four months after the bill becomes law and begin accepting waste before the end of next year.

The legislation has not yet passed the Senate.

Washington and South Carolina lawmakers said that if their states are targeted, they feared the interim facilities could end up as permanent waste repositories. They worried that establishing interim waste dumps might reduce pressure to open Yucca Mountain.

“The state of Washington does not want to become … a nuclear-waste dump more than we are already,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, Washington Democrat. “Interim, in geologic time, could mean several lifetimes.”

The interim-storage proposal comes as concerns continue about delays in opening the proposed Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Last year, a federal court questioned its proposed radiation-protection plans. More recently, concerns surfaced over charges that government workers on the project falsified data.

The bill provides $661 million for continued development of the Yucca facility, which must still get a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Rep. David L. Hobson, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Appropriations energy subcommittee, said that he strongly supports development of the Yucca facility, but that interim storage is needed because of the delays.

He said the government faces an estimated $500 million in additional liability costs for every year the government fails to accept waste. By law, the Energy Department was supposed to begin taking commercial used reactor fuel in 1998.

More than 50,000 tons of nuclear waste is now kept at reactors in 31 states.

The spending bill also contains $4.7 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, most of it devoted to waterways, dams and flood-control projects. That is $414 million more than requested by President Bush, but $294 million less than current funding.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide