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April 7, 1997

S. 104 - Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997
(Murkowski (R-AK) and 27 cosponsors)

If S. 104 were presented to the President in its current form, the President would veto the bill. S. 104 would undermine the credibility of the Nation's nuclear waste disposal program by, in effect, designating a specified site for an interim storage facility before the viability of that site as a permanent geological repository has been assessed. The bill would also undermine the ongoing work on the permanent disposal site by siphoning away resources for an interim site.

The Administration is committed to resolving the complex and important issue of nuclear waste storage in a timely and sensible manner. The Federal government's long-standing commitment to permanent, geological disposal should remain the basic goal of high-level radioactive waste management policy. This Administration has instituted planning and management initiatives to accelerate progress on assessing Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a permanent geologic disposal site, and urges the Congress to provide sufficient resources to allow the Administration to complete the Yucca Mountain viability assessment in 1998.

S. 104, however, would effectively establish Nevada as the site of an interim nuclear waste storage facility before the viability assessment of Yucca Mountain as a permanent geologic repository is completed. Moreover, even if Yucca Mountain is determined not to be viable for a permanent repository, the bill would provide no plausible opportunity to designate a viable alternative as an interim storage site. Any potential siting decision concerning such a facility ultimately should be based on objective, science-based criteria and informed by the likelihood of the success of the Yucca Mountain site.

In addition, the Administration strongly objects to the bill's weakening of existing environmental standards by preempting all Federal, State, and local laws inconsistent with the environmental requirements of this bill and the Atomic Energy Act. This preemption would effectively replace EPA's authority to set acceptable radiation release standards with a statutory standard and would create loopholes in the National Environmental Policy Act.

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