The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act Hurts Utah
Organizations urge federal lawmakers not to support HR 2699
December 11, 2019, Salt Lake City, UT — Today, organizations announced their opposition to House Resolution 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, and urge the Utah’s federal delegation to vote against this bill. These organizations include the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), Citizens Education Project, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Uranium Watch, the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, and the Utah Sierra Club.
HR 2699 aims to open consolidated interim storage facilities for high-level radioactive waste throughout the southwest. This bill is focused primarily on opening these facilities in New Mexico and Texas, as well as completing a permanent waste storage location at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. HR 2699 passed out of the United States House Energy and Commerce Committee in November by voice vote.
“Congress should be pursuing hardened on-site storage for this waste at or near its current location. This is the solution that can most safely contain it and not put others at-risk,” said Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director of HEAL Utah.
“They want to complete the deep underground storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada which has widely considered to be geologically unsuitable,” said Steve Erickson of Citizens Education Project, “and then truck the waste cross-country once more.”
“Washington is bowing to the political clout of industry while placing unnecessary and potentially costly risks on public health, showing deference to polluters yet again,” said Carly Ferro, Interim Director of the Utah Sierra Club. “Additionally, the transport of nuclear waste is dangerous to citizens. The nuclear industry not only wants to truck it from all over the country to the border between Texas and New Mexico, but wants federal money to fund its actions.”
The only representative from New Mexico on the committee, Representative Ben Ray Lujan, said that he was “deeply concerned that this bill makes it more likely that a future interim storage site — potentially one in New Mexico — becomes a permanent home for nuclear waste.”
While HR 2699 doesn’t propose any waste facilities in Utah, the organizations are concerned about the transportation implications that the state would incur. Transporting high-level radioactive waste away from the facility it was created at inherently puts innocent citizens at-risk should an accident occur.
“In order for the nation’s high-level radioactive waste to be stored at the proposed facilities, it needs to get there first, and 80% of it could come through Utah,” Dr. Williams explained. “This means that we could see as many as 10,000 shipments of the world’s most hazardous material moving through communities up and down I-15, leaving Utahns to simply hope that no accident occurs while it’s in transit.”
The House committee also proposed an amendment that was approved for a grant to fund the study of radiation exposure impacts, something that Utah is painfully familiar with in the state’s history of cancer among downwinders and uranium miners.
The organizations urge decisionmakers to oppose HR 2699 and instead consider the permanent hardened on-site storage option which would be safer, more just, and not require any transportation of the waste.
Please see here for a transportation route map for Yucca Mountain and here for transportation routes for the country’s high-level radioactive waste.
About Citizens Education Project
Citizens Education Project is an all-volunteer effort dedicated to achieving social, economic and environmental justice. https://www.facebook.com/pg/citizenseducationproject/
About the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah:
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen.
About the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force
The Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force was formed 30 years ago and works solely on national nuclear waste policy and Yucca Mountain. We are the only organization working full-time on this issue. We work in conjunction with local, national, and international organizations to make sure that people everywhere are informed and have the opportunity to be involved. https://www.facebook.com/Nevada-Nuclear-Waste-Task-Force
About the Utah Sierra Club
The Utah Sierra Club works to protect Utah’s wild places, wildlife, and waters, as well as the people and communities who depend on them. Our activism and advocacy are based on our strong grassroots networks, citizen-based leadership, and the guidance and skill sets of professional staff support. With nearly 6,000 members and over 40,000 supporters across Utah, we work to protect public lands, promote renewable energy, defend against nuclear threats, and support initiatives that promote clean air and water strategies. https://utah.sierraclub.org/
About Uranium Watch
Uranium Watch works to educate and advocate for the protection of public health and the environment from past, current, and future impacts of uranium mining, uranium milling, nuclear waste disposal at uranium mill sites, and other impacts of the nuclear fuel cycle. Uranium Watch is encouraging and facilitating public participation in state and federal regulatory decision-making processes related to the uranium industry. https://uraniumwatch.org/
About Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the residents of Utah by promoting science-based health education and interventions that result in progressive, measurable improvements to the environment and our health. https://www.uphe.org/