Stop New Pollution and Global Security Threats from Nuclear Waste

The US has a serious nuclear waste problem, and like the rest of the world, we have found no solution. Nonetheless, the White House is proposing a giant program to import and reprocess foreign spent fuel. This will increase the amount of highly radioactive waste the US would have to permanently store.

In his current budget, the Bush Administration proposed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which would make major changes to U.S. policies regarding the global management of spent nuclear fuel. What this will do is cause more pollution, create an enormous security threat, and be dangerous to communities and neighborhoods.

Demand that your Senators not fund the GNEP and vote no on Bush budget's initiative on nuclear reprocessing.

As your constituent, I am writing to urge you to oppose any funding for reprocessing nuclear waste under the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative in the FY2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Reprocessing, the separation of uranium and plutonium from irradiated fuel, is an extremely expensive and polluting process that won’t solve our nuclear waste problem. Moreover, it would undermine U.S. nonproliferation efforts.

The $250 million budget request for reprocessing is a part of the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), a large, expensive program to promote reprocessing in the United States and in other countries. The House, expressing serious concerns about the proposed GNEP program, cut the budget by more than half to $120 million in its recently passed Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The House report concluded that “the Department of Energy has failed to provide sufficient detailed information to enable Congress to understand fully all aspects of this initiative, including cost, schedule, technology development plan, and waste streams from GNEP.” Without this information, Congress cannot determine whether this program is fiscally sound and in the best interests of U.S. national and energy security.

Commercial reprocessing, in fact, is not a new idea. In fact, more than $40 billion has been spent globally on reprocessing technologies that have never become commercially successful. A 1996 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the costs of reprocessing and transmutation of irradiated fuel from waste produced by existing U.S. reactors alone “easily could be more than $100 billion,” in addition to the cost of a geologic repository.

Reprocessing will not solve our country’s nuclear waste problem, because it will make more waste streams that must be managed and cannot eliminate the need for a geologic repository. The U.S. has not cleaned up the mess from past reprocessing. The only private commercial reprocessing facility in the United States, West Valley in New York, resulted in radioactive waste that is still threatening Lake Erie more than 30 years later and will cost $5.2 billion to clean up. U.S. taxpayers are also on the hook for more than $100 billion to clean up the reprocessing waste at the U.S. nuclear weapons sites that reprocessed to get plutonium for nuclear weapons, as well as reprocessed naval fuel.

Reprocessing would also undermine global nonproliferation efforts. Lack of sufficient fissile material is the primary obstacle keeping non-weapons states and terrorist organizations from creating and using nuclear weapons. Implementing reprocessing would increase the risk that terrorists could obtain plutonium.

I urge you to oppose the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership funding for reprocessing nuclear waste in the FY2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

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