Minnesota Indian Tribe Calls on Congress to Solve Nuclear Waste Crisis Before Embracing New Era of Nuclear Power

Thousands of vulnerable communities located near temporary nuclear waste

sites at risk

Oct 31, 2007, 01:00 ET from Prairie Island Indian Community

    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
     "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