NIRS - Letter to Sen. Dole

Nuclear Information and Resource Service
1424 16th Street NW, #404
Washington, DC 20036
202-328-0002; fax: 202-462-2183

April 16, 1996

Hon. Robert Dole
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Dole:

We are dismayed and outraged to learn that a Senate floor vote on S. 1271 (Craig, R-Idaho) tentatively has been scheduled for April 25 or 26, 1996.

As you know, April 26, 1996 is the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident--a disaster that has grown larger with time. It is an anniversary that merits sober reflection on the terrible consequences of the nuclear age, and respect for the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes, their land, and their lives.

Instead, we apparently will be treated to the spectacle of a Senate vote on the U.S. nuclear power industry's latest "not-in-my-back-yard" scheme--a bill which has been quite aptly dubbed the "Mobile Chernobyl Act."

S. 1271 addresses the ongoing and enormous problem of radioactive waste by moving the problem from the nuclear utilities to taxpayers. The bill would establish an "interim" radioactive waste storage site near Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and begin the unprecedented transport of high-level radioactive waste through 43 states and the District of Columbia; through dozens of cities and across our nation's agricultural heartland. Once the waste left the utility sites, where it is now, title to and liability for that waste would transfer from the utilities to the taxpayers. All this because nuclear utilities don't want to pay for storage of their own waste, and, like everyone else, don't want it in their own backyards.

S. 1271 would be an insult to the American people at any time. Holding this vote on the 10th anniversary of Chernobyl is contemptuous and demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the lessons of Chernobyl.

Writing in the April 1996 issue of Scientific American, Yuri Shcherbak, Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States, said, "Chornobyl [Ukrainian spelling] was not simply another disaster of the sort that humankind has experienced throughout history, like a fire or an earthquake or a flood. It is a global environmental event of a new kind. It is characterized by the presence of thousands of environmental refugees; long-term contamination of land, water and air; and possibly irreparable damage to ecosystems. Chornobyl demonstrates the ever growing threat of technology run amok."

S. 1271 ignores the lessons of Chernobyl. The high-level nuclear waste that would be transported across our nation's railways and highways contains 95% of the radioactivity ever created in the U.S. Before we begin such a risky endeavor, we had better be sure that the first transport of this deadly material is the last. Moving the waste to an "interim" site, even as evidence is growing that Yucca Mountain is not suitable for permanent disposal, could be a catastrophic mistake.

We must avoid a Mobile Chernobyl in the United States. The best way to do that is to not rush into nuclear industry schemes to avoid liability for their own waste products.

A fitting commemoration of Chernobyl's 10th anniversary would be for you to announce that S. 1271 will never reach the Senate floor. At the very least, out of respect for the victims of commercial nuclear technology, we urge you to postpone this vote to a more appropriate time.


Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service