Nevada representative warns against nuclear waste storage
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Transporting nearly 80,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste to a depository in Nevada could be "catastrophic" and endanger homeland security if the shipments become targets for terrorists, the state's sole congressional Democrat said Saturday.
In April, the House Energy Committee approved a resolution to put the nation's first permanent nuclear waste depository beneath Yucca Mountain. The full House is to vote on the measure next week.
House approval would override Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's veto of President Bush decision to construct the $58 billion project in the Nevada desert.
"If Congress approves this project, as many as 108,000 shipments of nuclear waste will travel across 45 states," Rep. Shelley Berkley in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
Berkley said government statistical models show there could be between 50 and 300 accidents during the transfers.
"People make mistakes; accidents happen. But an accident involving nuclear waste could be catastrophic, exposing whole communities to radiation and utterly destroying the environment for nearly a quarter of a million years," she said.
"An even more devastating incident would be a terrorist attack. We already know that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are looking for a 'dirty bomb.' These waste transports are exactly the type of target-rich environment they are looking for," Berkley warned.
"With every truck, rail and barge shipment, our homeland security becomes more and more difficult to defend," the congresswoman said.
Berkely said transporting the nuclear waste to Nevada will damage the environment and do little to remedy the nation's nuclear-waste disposal dilemma.
In 2036, when Yucca Mountain is filled to capacity, there still will be 44,000 tons of nuclear waste stored at reactor sites, she said. The shipments to Nevada will have reduced on-site storage of nuclear waste by just 4 percent, she added.
Berkley said that, according to scientists, the proposed Nevada waste dump is located in an earthquake and volcanic eruption zone. She recommended that the nation begin relying less on nuclear power and more on renewable energy sources like solar power.
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