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Recent bill reopens discussion of Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site

The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan has created a nuclear emergency at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. While reactor containment units have not been breached yet, the thought of long-term radiation contamination is on the world’s mind. Almost two weeks ago and about one week before the tragic earthquake in Japan occurred, lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would reopen the talk about nuclear waste storage in the United States. The implication given the tragedy in Japan is extremely long-term environmental land contamination.

The bill would not only permit the construction of 200 commercial nuclear power plants in the United States, it would also restart the plan to store the nation’s nuclear waste at a nuclear waste storage site in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Many experts believe that nuclear power in the United States cannot be expanded without a solution to the storage of nuclear waste. One of the only solutions to solve the problem was to store the waste deep inside Yucca Mountain.

The bill calls on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a complete review of the Yucca Mountain site without political interference. Last year, the Department of Energy ceased plans to use the Yucca Mountain site as a long-term nuclear storage facility. Responding to the Energy Department’s withdrawal and the introduction of the bill, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the decision to withdraw was a political decision and one not based on science. The Senator went on to say that the current administration needs to create a solution for the country’s nuclear waste disposal problem.

The tragedy and crisis in Japan has given officials in the United States moment to pause to consider the future of nuclear power in the United States and to consider the safety of nuclear plants currently in use. Senator Joseph Lieberman offered caution during this past Sunday’s “Face the Nation” and said the nuclear situation in Japan should make us consider the level of risk that we are able to plan for. The current administration has maintained that nuclear energy remains a clean energy option for the nation.

Source: Colorlines.com, “GOP reopens fight over nuclear waste in Sacred Yucca Mountain,” Julianne Hing, 3/15/11

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