Bush's Plan to Weaken Yucca Mountain Standards Should be Buried, NRDC Says

WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2006) -- A Bush Administration bill designed to weaken public health and environmental standards at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is fatally flawed and should not be enacted, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said today.

In congressional testimony, Geoffrey H. Fettus, senior attorney in NRDC's nuclear program, said the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act represents "yet another effort to relax or remove appropriate environmental oversight and standards that must apply if the proposed repository is to meet the twin goals of protecting human health for the length of time the waste is dangerous and public acceptance of the federal solution to the nuclear waste problem."

Fettus testified at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (Click here for the full testimony.)

Fettus said S. 2589 would weaken licensing procedures, pre-empt state environmental regulations and undercut the current legal framework by doing away with transparent, deliberate proceedings.

"If we are ever to have a robust repository program that both follows the original intent of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and gains the trust of the American public, then the federal government, in both its executive and legislative incarnations, must cease efforts to weaken meaningful and protective health and environmental standards application to the program," Fettus testified. "Congress should not be deciding issues of ultimate certainty in health and safety judgments, nor should it be resolving technical disagreements with the stroke of a pen."

"In contrast with the provisions of S. 2589, our national focus should be on promulgating adequate environmental standards and then testing whether Yucca Mountain meets those standards through a fair, thorough and transparent licensing process," Fettus said. "That process is required by existing law."