News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – By a 60-39 vote, the Senate today passed a resolution approving Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a national nuclear waste repository. Senator Murray voted in favor of the resolution.

Her statement follows:

"Today, the Senate voted to approve Yucca Mountain as a national nuclear waste repository. I voted in favor of the resolution recognizing that there remain concerns about Yucca Mountain and the transport of nuclear waste. I will be working to ensure that Congress remains active and vigilant in its oversight of Yucca Mountain, the transportation of waste, and the regulatory process.

During World War II and the Cold War, the people of the Tri-Cities produced the material that went into our strategic arms. We won those wars in part because of the sacrifices made in the Tri-Cities. One legacy of that sacrifice is the freedom we enjoy today, but another legacy is nuclear waste. Our state has one of the most polluted sites in the world, the Hanford Nuclear Facility, on the banks of the Columbia River.

In Washington state we continue to do our part to meet that challenge. But we recognize that the waste at Hanford is part of a national problem, and it requires a national solution. The Yucca Mountain repository is part of that national solution.

The vote today completes the legislative process established under the National Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and subsequent amendment of 1987. Under this Act, the Congress had the requirement to only approve or disapprove President Bush's site recommendation of Yucca. We did not have the ability to amend the resolution. A vote of disapproval would have taken the country back to 1982 with no plan to address the permanent storage of our defense and commercial nuclear waste.

Many concerns have been raised regarding the transportation of nuclear waste from across the country to Yucca Mountain. I certainly understand the concerns of states and local communities and hope that the current and future Administrations will work not only to provide information and reassurance, but also work with those jurisdictions to address their concerns. The American public should have some confidence in the Federal Government's ability to manage the transportation program properly. For many decades, our nation has shipped nuclear waste, fuel, and weapons throughout the U.S. with great attention to both safety and security.

If Yucca were not approved, the U.S. would have to consider the use of an interim storage facility or facilities while likely initiating a new search for a permanent repository. That would be a troubling development on many fronts. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington would likely be considered as a site for any interim or permanent storage facility due to its already high levels of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. An interim storage facility would likely decrease the motivation for a permanent site and, by default, make the interim facility a permanent repository.

Today's vote does not represent final approval of the Yucca Mountain site. Today's vote simply allows the Department of Energy to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to open and operate Yucca Mountain. Beyond the NRC, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency will be involved in regulating Yucca Mountain and the transportation of waste to Yucca.

Congress has the obligation of agency oversight and will be monitoring the agencies and actions related to Yucca Mountain. I expect Congress will remain aggressively vigilant as the federal agencies work on the Yucca license.

Washington state has more nuclear waste in need of a permanent repository than any other state in the nation. While we don't yet know exactly how much Hanford waste will be sent to Yucca, we do know that without a permanent repository, no high-level waste or spent fuel will leave Hanford. While this may not answer every question about how to deal with all the waste at Hanford, it answers many of them and puts Washington state on a more certain path to cleanup."