Governor Mark Sanford addressed the Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council Thursday, discussing the state’s ongoing efforts to urge Congress and the Obama Administration to recommit to the Yucca Mountain project.
Sanford says South Carolina has invested $1.2 billion in the project now being shut down. All states together have invested $10 billion.
(Sanford on Yucca Mountain MP3 3:24)
Sanford on Yucca Mountain
Sanford says Yucca Mountain is an important facility not just for South Carolina, but for the nation. The governor told the South Carolina Radio Network that public pressure is the only thing that will reverse the current decision.
Yucca Mountain Repository is a Congressionally directed storage facility for spent reactor fuel and other radioactive waste located inside a mountain 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Following years of opposition from Nevada politicians, Congress voted to cut the project’s 2009 budget to $196 million, the lowest amount ever, continuing a five-year trend of low funding. This month DOE filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission marking an official end to the project, to the dismay of South Carolina officials who have planned to use it. South Carolina’s Savannah River Site(SRS) has been decommissioned as a nuclear waste storage facility but has stored the waste since the 1950’s and officials want the waste moved.
Democratic Congressman John Spratt of South Carolina is on the same page as Sanford on this one. He has joined in introducing a bipartisan Resolution of Disappoval to compel the Department of Energy not to pull the project’s license application. Spratt said, “Last year I chaired a Budget Committee hearing highlighting the impact and liability should Yucca not be completed. I will do all I can to make sure some funding goes to defend the license application this year.”
Sanford says Yucca Mountain is part of of a 25-year compact with South Carolina and other states, that should not end as a result of old-style Chicago politics driven by Nevada Senator Harry Reid.
Senator Reid says the proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain threatened the health and safety of Nevada’s people. He has argued that it’s not a safe site. Reid says that With the election of President Obama and his carrying through on his promise, the fate of the project has never been clearer.
Nuclear Advisory Council members say South Carolina could benefit from Yucca Mountain if it would remain open.
Shelly Wilson with the nuclear division at the Department of Health and Environmental Control told the council Thursday that SRS has had accelerated cleanup thanks to federal Recovery Act funds, that now 245 out of 945 waste facilities at the site have been decommissioned. Pat McGuire, over SRS’ depleted uranium division, reported to the council that he has talked to storage facilities in Utah and Texas about taking some waste shipments from SRS, and that Texas is still a viable option even though Utah has stopped excepting shipments.
Sanford says closing Yucca Mountain would be a tremendous act against the taxpayers of South Carolina and some other states. He says Senator Reid does have the power to stop the facility, and it could take ten years for it to be permitted again, if it is ever re-permitted.