WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Minnesota Indian tribe today urged a Senate panel to deliver on a promise to move the nation's nuclear waste to a safe, secure facility before allowing the United States to revisit nuclear power as a preferred energy source. The Prairie Island Indian Community offered its comments during the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's hearing on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project. The tribe is among the closest communities in the country to a temporary nuclear waste site, located just 600 yards from more than 20 large containment units of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. Prairie Island is just one of thousands of communities in 39 different states located in close proximity to a temporary nuclear waste facility. There are presently 121 temporary nuclear waste storage sites scattered across the United States. "The federal government must fulfill its obligation under the National Nuclear Waste Storage Act and subsequent acts of Congress to solve the waste disposal problem and move the nation's nuclear waste to a safe and secure facility," the tribe stated in its testimony. "Developing a safe, permanent storage facility for spent nuclear fuel is critical to the health and welfare of the millions of Americans who currently live near temporary nuclear waste storage sites." Twenty-five years after Congress passed the National Nuclear Waste Storage Act and mandated the establishment of an underground repository, the future of the nation's nuclear waste disposal program remains in doubt. In 2002, Congress approved Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site for the nation's first permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste but some Congressional leaders are now calling for the project to be abandoned. Meanwhile, despite the uncertainty surrounding the nation's waste disposal program, new nuclear power plants are being proposed throughout the country. "Lost in the debate over Yucca Mountain are the communities that bear the burden of the federal government's inaction and failure to solve the nation's nuclear waste problem," the tribe commented. "The indefinite storage of high-level nuclear waste at 121 different locations in 39 states poses a serious threat to national security and puts at risk more than 169 million Americans currently living within 75 miles of these temporary storage facilities." Prairie Island told the committee that storage at Yucca Mountain, a remote, militarily-secure site designed to permanently store the nation's high-level nuclear waste is a safer alternative to leaving nuclear waste under varying levels of security at multiple locations, near communities, rivers, and other natural resources. "Until or unless the federal government solves its nuclear waste problem, it is simply irresponsible to allow the construction of new nuclear power plants anywhere in the United States," the tribe stated in its testimony. To date, American ratepayers have contributed more than $28 billion to the national Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for a national storage site. This includes $470 million from Minnesotans. Prairie Island is located in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 50 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Prairie Island is among the closest communities in the nation to a nuclear power plant and an above-ground nuclear waste storage site. Twin nuclear reactors and nearly two dozen large cement nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from our homes. As many as 35 additional casks will be added in the coming years. The only evacuation route off the Prairie Island is frequently blocked by passing trains. The tribe has been fighting to have the nuclear waste removed since 1994 when the state of Minnesota first allowed Xcel Energy to store the waste near its reservation.
SOURCE Prairie Island Indian Community