The Domenici Deception: Nuclear Energy Bill Is an Atomic Waste

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A sweeping nuclear energy bill introduced this week in
the Senate would promote an increased reliance on nuclear power under the
guise of environmentalism and would improperly give the nuclear industry a
$100 million subsidy, according to Public Citizen's analysis of the bill.

Promoting nuclear power is risky because questions about its safety still
abound and we still cannot guarantee safe storage of nuclear waste for the
duration of its hazardous life.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and entitled "The
Nuclear Energy Electricity Supply Assurance Act of 2001," would encourage
the construction of new nuclear plants, subsidize the completion of
unfinished reactors that have lain fallow for years and promote the
development of reactor designs that lack containment structures to prevent
the release of radiation into the environment and surrounding communities.

"Senator Domenici's nuclear energy bill is yet another misguided attempt
to subsidize this most dangerous and unforgiving technology," said Wenonah
Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment
Program.  "It is thoroughly irresponsible to promote the use of nuclear
power when there is still no technically feasible means of assuring that
long-lived radioactive wastes can be isolated from the environment.
Further, this will do nothing to solve the current predicament we have
with rising electricity costs."

The Domenici bill also would approve a shift from formal hearings - which
give the public the right to obtain documents through discovery and to
cross-examine hearing participants - to informal hearings, in which the
public can do neither. This would curtail the ability of citizens to
adequately participate in the licensing hearings on a proposed
"high-level" waste repository at Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, and on safety
issues at more than 100 U.S. nuclear reactors.

"Senator Domenici wants to turn Americans into second-class citizens by
limiting our public hearing and participation rights," said James Riccio,
senior analyst for Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment
"Shielding the nuclear industry from public scrutiny will further
undermine confidence in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the
industry. If the nuclear industry cannot withstand the rigors of formal
hearings, their reactors and nuclear waste dumps should not be built,"
added Riccio.

The Domenici bill would extend the Price Anderson Act, which indemnifies
the nuclear industry against the financial consequences of a nuclear
accident. The bill also would encourage the construction of more reactors
while limiting the liability of the nuclear industry in the event of an
accident. The bill would allow foreign corporations to own and operate
nuclear reactors in the United States, which would mean that U.S.
taxpayers would be subsidizing foreign corporations while exercising
limited controls over their operations.

"I fail to see why the American taxpayer should indemnify foreign
corporations whose nuclear reactors threaten the lives and livelihoods of
American citizens," Hauter said.  "Foreign and domestic corporations that
expose the public to the risk of a nuclear disaster should be held
financially accountable for their actions. Shielding nuclear corporations
from the consequences of their actions will only result in more dangerous
nuclear plants and waste dumps."

The Domenici bill also would create an Office of Spent Nuclear Fuel
Research to promote dangerous and discredited technologies such as the
reprocessing of radioactive waste, which would cost $10 million alone in 2002.

"This does nothing to solve the nuclear waste problem but instead
introduces a host of new environmental and safety problems," Hauter said.
"It merely serves as a smokescreen to mask the problems that would be
exacerbated by the increased reliance on nuclear power that this bill

The bill's proposed remedy for the failure of electricity deregulation -
taxpayer subsidizing of the operation of more nuclear reactors - simply
would complicate this country's self-inflicted power crisis, Hauter said.
By propping up a dangerous and failed technology, the legislation ignores
proven alternatives such as wind, solar and energy conservation, she said.

"The massive subsidies and radioactive waste clean-up costs are so
staggering that nuclear power will only increase already sky-high
wholesale electricity prices," Hauter said.  "The prescription for the
failure of electricity deregulation is to re-establish public authority
over profiteering power producers."

Finally, the overarching problem with the bill is that nuclear reactors
are neither clean nor safe, Riccio said.  For Senate Republicans to
promote nuclear power as environmentally friendly is at best deceptive and
constitutes the worst kind of corporate welfare, he said.

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Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project