BEYOND NUCLEAR PUBLICATIONS
Search
JOIN OUR NETWORK

     

     

 

 

« ISP/WCS: NRC ASLB's INITIAL SCHEDULING ORDER | Main | Urgent citizen resistance needed against Mobile Chernobyl bill »
Thursday
Oct102019

Radioactive racism is not progressive! Urge your Congress Members to oppose dangerously bad high-level nuke waste dumps!

 
Even though "Nevada Is Not a Radioactive Wasteland!" (see photo, left, showing Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, and Native Community Action Council's Ian Zabarte, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2018 at the "Zero Hour" youth climate rally), U.S. House bill H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, was nonetheless recently rammed through the Environment and Climate Subcommittee on a voice vote, without so much as a peep of opposition. (See Oct. 1st Western Shoshone letter to U.S. House, opposing H.R. 2699, here.) Democrats hold the majority in the U.S. House, and thus are in charge of this subcommittee. Subcommittee Democrats include several members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. But H.R. 2699 would rush the opening of the Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada, targeting Western Shoshone Indian land, where decades of nuclear weapons testing already caused fallout of hazardous radioactivity over a very large region. It would even significantly increase the amount of high-level radioactive waste that could be buried there, thus increasing the number of Mobile Chernobyl and Floating Fukushima shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge, through most states, scores of major urban centers, and the vast majority of U.S. congressional districts, bound for the dump (see 2017 documents here for road and rail route maps). The Timbisha Band of Western Shoshone in Death Valley are directly downstream of Yucca, and would suffer the very worst contamination consequences from the leaking dump. H.R. 2699 would also authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to take ownership of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel at private, consolidated interim storage facilities (CISF). This radical change to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as Amended, would risk "interim" becoming de facto permanent surface storage, meaning loss of institutional control over time would guarantee large-scale releases of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment.   

The current targets for CISFs are two sites in the Permian Basin, just 39 miles apart across the New Mexico/Texas border, in a Hispanic region not far from the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation (itself previously targeted for a CISF). New Mexico ranks towards the bottom of states on numerous major socio-economic indicators (even though some 40% of gargantuan U.S. nuclear weapons complex spending takes place within its borders!), and already suffers from intense fossil fuel and nuclear industry pollution. Just this week, a report found that shockingly high percentages of Navajo/Diné women and infants tested positive for uranium exposure; even though mining in the Four Corners (including on Pueblo Indian land) largely ended decades ago, cleanup of contamination at countless sites has gone largely to entirely undone. A U.S. Senate field hearing in Albuquerque just addressed this environmental injustice, and also the unacknowledged and uncompensated suffering of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders, victims and survivors of the "Trinity" open air plutonium bomb detonation on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico, the world's first atomic test blast. To now target New Mexico with high-level radioactive waste de facto permanent surface storage dumps adds insult to injury. The two CISFs would hold 213,600 metric tons of nuclear power waste, more than three times the amount currently targeted at Yucca (70,000 MT). As the former head of Environmental Justice at the U.S. EPA, Mustafa Ali, said on Democracy Now! on September 5, the countless high risk shipments themselves, bound for such dumps, would burden low income, people of color communities, along transport routes across the country, with yet another major environmental injustice.
 
Despite all this inherent environmental racism, H.R. 2699's identical predecessor bill last year, H.R. 3053, passed the U.S. House floor by a whopping 340 to 72 vote on May 10, 2018. (Luckily, the U.S. Senate did not take up H.R. 3053 last year, so the bill died. However, the Republican majority U.S. Senate has already taken up a discussion draft of legislation very similar or even identical to H.R. 2699 this year, in the Environment and Public Works Committee. This makes our action to stop it dead in its tracks all the more vital, because another blowout vote in favor of H.R. 2699 on the House floor this year or next, could tee up consideration of identical legislation in the U.S. Senate, bringing it that much closer to President Donald J. Trump's desk, and enactment!) Inexplicably, nearly half the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) voted in favor of this radioactively racist bill! But it goes without saying that environmental injustice is not a progressive value! Of course, such a bad vote is unacceptable, even if Congress Members do not belong to the CPC. Please contact your U.S. Representative, and both your U.S. Senators. You can be patched through to your Congress Members' D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge your Congress Members to oppose H.R. 2699, now headed to the full U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. Also urge them to oppose any funding in Fiscal Year 2020 for either the Yucca dump, or for CISFs. And urge them to oppose S. 1234, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2019, which also advocates for non-consent based siting of the dump in Nevada, and greases the skids for CISFs in New Mexico and Texas. Urge your Congress Members to support the Nevada congressional delegation's Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act of 2019 (S. 649), as well as to advocate for the very long overdue, common sense interim alternative of Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS)