Second quarter of 2002

Statement on Yucca Mountain

By Richard A. Gephardt, Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives of the US Congress
H-204, U.S. Capitol, May 8, 2002

[Posted 10/05/2002]

Gephardt Floor Statement on Yucca Mountain
(As Delivered)

"Mr. Speaker: I rise to urge a vote against the Yucca Mountain approval resolution. I hope this resolution will be turned down. I commend the courageous people fighting against it, led by Representative Berkley and Dario Herrera. I'm sorry that the Bush administration went back on its word, approving the untested, dangerous measure.

"Whether or not to allow storage and transportation of waste is a decision with important consequences for people in my district and across America. It is a fact that scientists are still debating whether the Yucca Mountain is safe.

"The General Accounting Office a few months ago said that storing waste at Yucca could infect water supplies and release deadly toxins into the surrounding air. It cited 293 scientific questions for which the federal government has no answers. And even if we begin shipping this waste today, we will still have nuclear waste stored all over this country decades from now.

"But my biggest concern is that it makes no sense to have all this material traveling across the country by truck and rail.

"You've seen just in the last month a number of tragic rail accidents. Even the Energy Department says that inevitably, there will be derailments of trains heading to Yucca Mountain. I had a train derailment in my district a year ago in Webster Groves, Missouri, where a whole train turned over. Luckily, it was only coal, but it was coal that was spilled a few feet from homes and schools in Webster Groves, Missouri. And the people in Webster Groves in the days since then have said to me, what if it had been not coal but nuclear waste?

"We have no plan. We have no resources. We have no training for dealing with such a derailment in St. Louis. We have only one hospital bed in the entire metropolitan area to treat severe radiation exposure.

"This is not a question about isolating the risk - Yucca Mountain in reality simply spreads it around.

"I know there is no perfect solution. But we can begin now to invest in better ways to store waste at the sites we currently use. Authorities in Pennsylvania have an approach that puts an emphasis on technology and innovation - an approach that avoids having to cart and haul this waste all the way across the United States. It puts the waste in reinforced facilities. It benefits people in Pennsylvania and it benefits all Americans.

"I simply think in conclusion that the science and logic is on the side of leaving this hazardous material on-site until we can find a better solution. I hope Yucca Mountain will be rejected."

Contact: Erik Smith/Kori Bernards +1-202-225 0100

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