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HANFORD/YUCCA MOUNTAIN: Senator Murray Blasts Energy Secretary, Obama Administration on Decision to Withdraw Yucca as Nuclear Repository

Mar 04 2010

At Energy Appropriations hearing, Murray tells Energy Secretary Chu that decision is irresponsible, goes back on 30 years of work; demands detailed impact analysis of how decision could affect Hanford community

Listen -  Senator Murray questions Secretary Chu

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), angered by recent decisions by the Department of Energy to not consider Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a national nuclear repository, called on Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dr. Steven Chu to provide real scientific evidence for the Obama Administration’s decision. At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, Murray repeatedly asked Chu for the scientific basis for the decision, sought explanations on whether the communities involved in cleanup efforts had been consulted in the decision, and pointed to the tremendous amount of work that has already been done to make Yucca Mountain the nation’s repository.

“Over the last 30 years, Congress, independent studies, and previous administrations have all pointed to, voted for, and funded Yucca Mountain as the nation’s best option for a nuclear repository,” Murray said at today’s hearing. “And in concert with those decisions, billions of dollars and countless work hours have been spent at Hanford and nuclear waste sites across the country in an effort to treat and package nuclear waste that will be sent there. Without a repository, those sites and the communities that support them have been left in limbo.”

Under questioning Secretary Chu admitted that none of the nuclear cleanup sites or surrounding communities had been consulted in DOE’s decision. He also strained to provide any scientific rationale for the administration’s push to take Yucca off the table. Murray cautioned that the decisions must be based on science.

“I believe that it is irresponsible for the Department of Energy to discontinue the Yucca program altogether, its funding, licensing and design,” Murray said. “I believe that this has to be a decision that should be based on science and the moral responsibility we have to clean up this waste. We can’t just unilaterally take one site out of the equation.”

Senator Murray believes Yucca Mountain needs to move forward and in 2002 voted to pass a resolution in the Senate approving Yucca Mountain as a national nuclear waste repository.


Senator Murray also pressed Secretary Chu on providing clear, consistent, and sufficient budgets for Hanford clean-up. Murray noted how early news reports had said that EM funding would be cut by $1 billion dollars in the upcoming year before action was taken to restore the cuts. She also noted her frustration with a $50 million shortfall for groundwater cleanup.

“These budgets budgets aren’t put together just by wishing or magic.  DOE works with the regulators, they work with communities, they agree on milestones,” Murray said. “We have got to have a government that backs up its promises and commitments with real money.”