Sen. Dale W. Zorn tells panel about need for a safe, permanent nuclear waste repository

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — Regarding his resolution urging the federal government to complete a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste, Sen. Dale W. Zorn, R-Ida, made the following remarks to the Senate Energy and Technology Committee:

“Chairman Nofs and members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before you today. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 is a resolution to urge the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fulfill their obligation to establish a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste.

“While nuclear generation has been a significant source for the nation’s electric production, it has for the past sixty years produced high level nuclear waste that continues to be stored in local communities. Over 70,000 metric tons are stored in 131 local communities throughout the nation, including Michigan.

“Some nuclear plants like Palisades in southwestern Michigan, and Fermi in southeast Michigan have exhausted their spent fuel capacity and are using above ground dry fuel storage casts or pools for temporary storage.

“Scientists from the United States and around the world have determined that an underground repository is a feasible and safe method for disposing of high level nuclear wastes.

“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released the final two volumes of the Safety Evaluation Report on Yucca Mountain at the beginning of this year.

“The commission evaluated the Yucca Mountain site both as a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel and as a repository for high-level radioactive waste.

“Their evaluation supported that Yucca Mountain could effectively serve as a geologic repository for over 1 million years. This review also included an assessment on protecting public health, safety and the environment over that extended period.

“The Nuclear Waste Act was enacted 1982 to provide a deep geological isolation of spent nuclear fuel and was to begin accepting spent fuel by 1998.

“A funding method mandated by the act has collected over $31 billion from electric ratepayers throughout the nation, including $810 million from the electrical ratepayers in Michigan to pay for the construction of a repository.

“It is now 2015 — thirty-three years later — and the president and Congress have failed to open a repository that will store nuclear waste safely and securely.

“The failure of the federal government to open a repository according to the Nuclear Waste Act has compromised the security of nuclear waste and the safety of our population within our local communities.

“In 2002, the federal government came close to meeting their obligation to establish a permanent repository when then Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham recommended to President George Bush to proceed with the development of the Yucca Mountain repository, it was stopped by President Obama. And again, the federal government failed American families and electrical ratepayers.

“Honorable colleagues, I submit to you, in a time of renewable energy, by storing this waste safely and securely, that someday, maybe not in my lifetime, but someday there will be a purpose found to reuse this waste. Whether it be in industry or medical care, we will be able go in and retrieve it, and reuse it. To me, that is renewable energy.

“After three decades of failure, I call on your support to press the president and Congress to accept its responsibility to establish a permanent repository that will remove nuclear waste from our local communities, and store it in a safe and secure federal facility.

“I request your support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 8.”