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Thursday
Oct032019

Urgent citizen resistance needed against Mobile Chernobyl bill

This rail route past the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C. would be used to ship high-level radioactive waste to the Southwest for "interim storage" and/or permanent dumping.They're back. On September 26, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate, by voice vote, approved H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL). That is, not one peep of opposition, not a single question expressing concern, was uttered, not even by several Democratic members on the subcommittee who courageously and wisely voted against an earlier incarnation of this same legislation, H.R. 3053, just last year. Last year's version was ultimately passed on the House floor on May 10, 2018 by a whopping 340 to 72 vote; thankfully, though, the bill was stopped dead in its tracks, when the U.S. Senate did not act upon it. However, this year, the Republican majority U.S. Senate has already taken up its own "Discussion Draft" version of H.R. 2699 (and there is other dangerously bad nuclear waste legislation before the U.S. Senate right now as well, such as S. 1234, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, sponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).). H.R. 2699 would speed the opening of the Yucca dump, by gutting its Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding. It would also significantly increase the quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste that could be dumped there, from 70,000 metric tons to 110,000 MT. And it would authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to take ownership of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel even at consolidated interim storage facilities (CISFs), de-linked from development of a permanent repository, thus risking de facto permanent, surface storage, "parking lot dumps." With loss of institutional control over long enough time periods, failed containers at CISFs would release catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment. 

More than a thousand environmental, environmental justice, and anti-nuclear groups, along with the State of Nevada, its congressional delegation, the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, and other allies, have fended off such "Screw Nevada" attacks for a generation. So too have countless hundreds of grassroots organizations successfully blocked CISFs (previously called Monitored Retrievable Storage sites, Away-from-Reactor Storage, etc.), such as those targeted at scores of Native American reservations, like the Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah, time and time again over the course of decades. These little celebrated, grassroots victories, very hard won against all odds, have spared the country thousands, to tens of thousands, of high risk, irradiated nuclear fuel shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge, through scores of major urban population centers (including Washington, D.C. -- see photo, above). Whether bound for Yucca, or for Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance's 173,600 MT CISF in New Mexico, and/or Interim Storage Partners' 40,000 MT CISF at Waste Control Specialists, Texas, the Floating Fukushimas, Dirty Bombs on Wheels, and Mobile X-ray Machines That Can't Be Turned Off, would continue not for years, but decades. As the vast majority of U.S. congressional districts would be directly crossed by such shipments, you would think Congress would put the brakes on. But the nuclear industry's very large-scale campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures have blinded many with radioactive dollar signs. 

We must now rise to the challenge of H.R. 2699. Please contact your U.S. Representative, and both your U.S. Senators. Given that Members of the U.S. House are back in their home districts for the next ten days, this would be an excellent opportunity to get together with other concerned friends, colleagues, and neighbors of yours, to even request a face-to-face meeting with your U.S. Representative, to discuss these issues. You can phone your Congress Members' schedulers in their D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to oppose funding for the Yucca dump, and to oppose funding for CISFs, in Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations. And urge them to oppose H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. To learn more about this bill, go here.