June 25, 1995 in City

Gorton Wants Funds For N-Dump In Nevada Senator Tries To Stop Proposals For Storing Waste At Hanford

Scott Sonner Associated Press

Congress should give the Energy Department the money it needs to build temporary tanks at Yucca Mountain, Nev., to store spent nuclear fuel until a permanent facility planned there is completed, Sen. Slade Gorton says.

Gorton, R-Wash., trying to head off talk of using the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington for the temporary storage, said Yucca Mountain is the logical choice.

He urged the Senate to reject a GOP House proposal to gut spending on the Yucca Mountain project.

“Rather than abandon this program altogether, which the House essentially does in its budget resolution this year, does it not make more sense to push through and finish a project that has absorbed significant time and money?” Gorton said in a statement he inserted this week in the Congressional Record.

“If it is the intention of the federal government to send waste to Yucca Mountain eventually, why not send the spent fuel there temporarily, until the permanent depository is ready?

“By placing a temporary facility at Yucca Mountain, transporting this deadly material across the nation is limited to one voyage,” Gorton said.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently mentioned Hanford and Savannah River, S.C., as possible sites for interim storage of a growing stockpile of civilian spent nuclear fuel.

He said he was upset that $4.2 billion had been spent on the Yucca Mountain project to date with nothing to show for the effort.

Murkowski also has criticized the billions of dollars spent to clean up nuclear waste at Hanford without significant amounts of actual cleanup having occurred to date.

He joined Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., in introducing legislation that would rewrite environmental laws regulating cleanup and cut cleanup spending at Hanford because of wasteful practices of the past.

Gorton took exception to Murkowski’s position.

“It is puzzling when my friend suggests Hanford can barely tie its own shoes, but in the next breath, he says the site should be burdened with massive amounts of additional waste,” Gorton said.

Hanford is home to 80 percent of the nation’s spent plutonium, more than 2,000 metric tons. The most potent of the waste sits in 50-year-old concrete pools within hundreds of yards of the Columbia River.

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