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The Planet

Nevada Nuclear Waste Bill Derailed -- For Now

The Planet, June 1997, Volume 4, number 5

Environmentalists scored a victory for communities nationwide in April when the nuclear industry's Senate allies passed S. 104 but failed to secure enough votes to override an expected presidential veto. By a vote of 65 to 34 -- two votes short of the 67 votes required to override a Clinton veto -- the Senate voted to ship nuclear waste through 43 states by road and rail to a cement parking lot near Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

But the fight, which centers on where to store high-level nuclear waste generated at the nation's nuclear reactors, isn't over yet. Rep. Fred Upton (R- Mich.) introduced a House version of the bill, H.R. 1270, and hearings are underway. Upton's bill sets a dangerously high radiation exposure standard and preempts the Safe Drinking Water Act and other important environmental laws.

"A nuclear waste 'roach motel' in the Nevada desert is the wrong way to handle the most dangerous substance humankind has created," said Oregon energy activist Liz Frenkel. "Thanks to Club volunteers' last-minute calls and efforts we won the support of most of our targeted swing senators -- now we need to apply citizen pressure on the House."

The Sierra Club's position is that high-level nuclear waste should not be transported by road and rail to an interim storage site until a decision has been made about where this waste will ultimately go. In the meantime, the waste should be stored at the reactors that generated it, not moved twice.

"We opposed this program not because Nevada was the wrong state," said Club Executive Director Carl Pope, "but because this is the wrong program. There's no reason not to improve on-site storage facilities -- except the fact that the utilities don't want to spend the dollars."

To take action: Call and urge your representative to oppose H.R. 1270. Call Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D- N.J.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and thank them for voting for the environment and against the biggest high-level nuclear waste transportation project ever. Then call Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Harkin (D- Iowa) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and express your disappointment with their votes for S.104; urge them to vote to sustain a presidential veto.

For more information: Contact Ann Mesnikoff in the Washington, D.C., office at (202) 675-7902; e-mail: ann.mesnikoff@sierraclub.org.

http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/199706/yucca.asp


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