Leahy, Jeffords Questioning Yucca Mountain Plan

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(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators say they have serious concerns about a plan to ship nuclear waste to a proposed repository in Nevada. The votes of Senators Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords could be critical when the Senate votes on this issue in the very near future.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the next few weeks, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a plan to build a national nuclear waste storage facility in Yucca Mountain Nevada. Currently much of this waste is being kept in temporary storage in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, like the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon. The issue has become very controversial in Washington and opponents and supporters of the legislation are intensely lobbying members of the Senate.

Leahy, who earlier supported the legislation, now says he is very concerned over security issues associated with efforts to transport the wastes from nuclear power plants across the country to Nevada. Leahy says the Yucca Mountain plan will have a very difficult time passing the Senate if these concerns are not addressed:

(Leahy) “But I am very concerned that the White House has not answered the question about transporting this waste. A lot of states have raised that subject. What about the waste that’s going to go through not only our state but a lot of other states? What safety steps have they taken and the White House has taken? The attitude, ‘well, we’ll work that out….’ So I would hope that before we have any vote of this that the White House would answer the question that I and a lot of others have asked them. How safe is the transportation?”

(Kinzel) Senator Jeffords was also a supporter of this bill, but now he describes his position as neutral. Jeffords is very concerned about a new report that indicates that even if the Yucca Mountain facility is built, it will be able to hold only 60 % of the nation’s nuclear wastes by the year 2036:

(Jeffords) “Right now, with the more information we’re getting, the more difficult the situation is. Now we understand that they’re not going to be able to take all of our waste and that they’ll only take 60% of it, which will leave us with a lot of it. So I have kind of moved to a position of neutral on the Yucca Mountain situation until I learn as to what will happen to the rest of the waste.”

(Kinzel) The Yucca Mountain site is being designed to take nuclear wastes from 131 facilities in 39 states across the country.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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