RED WING, Minn., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A small Indian community located near a nuclear waste site in Minnesota responded with frustration today to Democratic presidential candidates who stated opposition to the proposed national nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain during a nationally televised presidential debate from Las Vegas last night. The Prairie Island Indian Community is among the closest communities in the country to a temporary nuclear waste site, located just 600 yards from 24 large containment units of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. Prairie Island is one of thousands of communities in 39 different states located in close proximity to temporary nuclear waste facilities. According to the Department of Energy, there are presently 125 temporary nuclear waste storage sites scattered across the United States. More than 169 million Americans live within 75 miles of these "temporary" storage facilities. "It's irresponsible to call for the termination of Yucca Mountain without offering a realistic alternative to solving the nation's nuclear waste problem," said Prairie Island Tribal Council President, Audrey Bennett. "Leaving nuclear waste next to vulnerable communities and pushing this burden off on future generations is not good leadership and it provides little comfort to the millions of Americans who are currently living near nuclear waste sites." The federal government has an 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. "It's been 25 years since Congress mandated the federal government to solve this problem but nuclear waste continues to gather in our backyards," added Bennett. "Yucca Mountain is a remote, militarily-secure site designed to permanently store the nation's high-level nuclear waste, and it's a safer alternative to leaving nuclear waste under varying levels of security at multiple locations, near communities, rivers, and other natural resources all across our country." Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Yucca Mountain project, several new nuclear power plants are on the drawing board. "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," added Bennett. To date, American ratepayers have contributed more than $28 billion to the national Nuclear Waste Fund, which is 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. Twin nuclear reactors and two dozen large cement nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from Prairie Island tribal 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