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October 24, 1997
If H.R. 1270, as reported by the Commerce Committee, were presented in its
current form, the President would veto the bill. H.R. 1270 would undermine the
credibility of the Nation's nuclear waste disposal program by designating a
specified site for an interim storage facility before the viability of that
site as a permanent geological repository has been assessed.
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 determining the suitability of Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a permanent geologic disposal site.
H.R. 1270, however, would 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 guided 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 the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to set acceptable radiation release standards with a statutory standard. In addition, the bill would undermine the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act by, among other things, creating significant loopholes in the environmental assessment process.
Finally, the completion of a permanent geological repository is essential not only for commercial spent fuel disposal, but also for the cleanup of the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex and the disposal of its weapons-grade materials. In addition, these actions are necessary to further U.S. international nuclear nonproliferation objectives. H.R. 1270 would, in the near-term, put interim storage activities in competition with actions needed to complete the permanent geologic repository. Consequently, the bill's enactment could delay the appropriate disposition of our surplus weapons-grade materials.
H.R. 1270 would affect outlays; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. Preliminary estimates indicate that H.R. 1270 would reduce offsetting receipts by $630 million in each of FYs 1999 through 2001, a total of $1,890 million, and increase such receipts by $2,070 million in FY 2002. H.R. 1270 does not contain provisions to offset potential deficit increases in its early years; consequently, if the bill were enacted, any deficit effects could contribute to a sequester of mandatory spending in each of FYs 1999 through 2001.