Skip banner
HomeHow Do I?Site MapHelp
Return To Search FormFOCUS
Search Terms: yucca mountain, House or Senate or Joint

Document ListExpanded ListKWICFULL format currently displayed

Previous Document Document 84 of 131. Next Document

More Like This
Copyright 1999 Federal News Service, Inc.  
Federal News Service

 View Related Topics 



LENGTH: 1194 words



Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss S. 608, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1999, as well as the proposal to take title to spent nuclear fuel from civilian nuclear power plants onsite until we are able to permanently dispose of it in a geologic repository.
The Administration continues to believe that the overriding goal of the Federal Government's high-level radioactive waste management policy should be the establishment of a permanent, geologic repository. We are committed to resolving the complex and important issue of nuclear waste disposal in a manner consistent with sound science and the protection of public health and safety, and the environment.
The repository effort is essential not only for the disposal of commercial spent nuclear fuel, but also for the disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste from the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex and from the Navy's nuclear-powered fleet. A permanent repository is also important to our nuclear non-proliferation efforts to demonstrate alternatives to reprocessing and for the disposal of foreign research reactor fuel being returned to the U.S. It is also an option for the disposition of surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons stockpiles. It is important to keep in mind that this project is the first of its kind, and the knowledge being gained by the United States in our effort to develop a permanent repository is also impacting how other nations confront their nuclear waste management responsibilities.
This Administration has made substantial progress toward meeting the goal of establishing a permanent geological repository. I would like to review this progress briefly before addressing the proposed legislation on interim storage.
Since 1993, we have drilled miles of tunnel into Yucca Mountain to permit scientific investigations of the geological setting and to enable us to verify model predictions that could not be confirmed without being inside the mountain. We are conducting various thermal tests to evaluate how the heat of the waste could impact the repository structure and the surrounding rock. We are investigating water movement through the repository structure and the effects of water on waste packages, as well as the ways the heat from the decay of radioactive materials may affect the site's geologic and hydrologic behavior. We are also evaluating different designs to reduce uncertainties associated with the long-term performance of the repository.
We are reaching the conclusion of our site characterization effort at Yucca Mountain. As you know, in December 1998, Secretary Richardson submitted the Viability Assessment of a Repository at Yucca Mountain to the Congress and to the President. The Viability Assessment revealed that no technical "show stoppers" have been identified at the site, but it did identify additional scientific and technical work needed before a decision can be made whether to recommend Yucca Mountain as the site for a repository. In the Department's FY 2000 budget request to Congress, the Secretary has asked for close to a $50 million increase for site characterization - a 17.4 percent increase - to continue this ongoing work and fully address the scientific concerns raised in the Viability Assessment.
We axe on schedule for the Secretary to make a decision in 2001 whether to recommend Yucca Mountain as the location of a permanent repository, and, if the site is suitable, to submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2002.
Notwithstanding the progress being made at Yucca Mountain, the nuclear utility industry and state utility commissions are understandably concerned about the Department's inability to accept spent fuel on the schedule anticipated at the time of enactment of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. As you are aware, the Department is currently in litigation with a number of utilities over our inability to meet our contractual obligation to begin taking spent fuel from those utilities by January 31, 1998. Ten utilities have filed claims for damages. In preliminary rulings in the first three cases, the Court ruled that the Department had breached its contracts and that the utilities are entitled to pursue their damage claims against the Department. The other Court of Federal Claims cases are in very preliminary stages with potentially years of litigation still ahead. The damages being sought by the ten utilities before the Court of Federal Claims total $8.5 billion. This is more than the existing balance in the Nuclear Waste Fund and is roughly 85 percent of the remaining cost to open the repository in 2010. Potential claims from other utilities could be many times this amount.
A decision is pending on whether payments for any potential judgments would come out of the Nuclear Waste Fund. Should it become necessary to use the Fund to pay these claims, the Department's ability to complete the repository program would be in jeopardy. Ironically, claims against the Fund could also require a significant increase in the fee charged utilities to maintain the program, and could trigger yet another round of litigation and claims.
Some utilities have come to the Department to discuss their specific spent fuel problems and proposed potential solutions. In an effort to respond to these needs, the Secretary has begun discussion of a proposal to take title to spent fuel on-site at reactors. This approach appears to offer the potential to end the uncertainty that continuing litigation brings to all parties and ensure the continuance of the repository program. Before I discuss this approach, I would first like to address the provisions of S. 608.
The Administration opposes any legislation, including S. 608, that calls for siting an interim storage facility in Nevada before we have completed the necessary work to decide whether Yucca Mountain will be the permanent repository site. Making a decision now to put interim storage in Nevada is not the right approach. The Administration does not believe it would make sense to transport spent fuel across the country to Yucca Mountain until we have completed the scientific work and know where a final repository will be. Spent fuel is currently being stored safely at reactor sites, under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight, and can continue to be stored safely there until a repository is open.
Enactment of S. 608 could have several negative impacts on the repository program. First, it will add the cost of construction of an interim storage facility to the program budget, and it will advance the costs of transportation much earlier than now planned. Between now and the year 2010, we estimate that interim storage would add approximately $1.5 billion to the total cost of the civilian radioactive waste program. It would also require expending between $2 billion and $3 billion for transportation prior to knowing whether Yucca Mountain will be the site for a permanent repository.

LOAD-DATE: March 26, 1999

Previous Document Document 84 of 131. Next Document


Search Terms: yucca mountain, House or Senate or Joint
To narrow your search, please enter a word or phrase:
About LEXIS-NEXIS® Congressional Universe Terms and Conditions Top of Page
Copyright © 2002, LEXIS-NEXIS®, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.