Chair Murkowski Chews Out an Undersecretary. At a Senate panel on a bill calling for the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste short-term, opponents stacked up objections, even renewing opposition to a permanent site.
The "Nuclear Waste Policy Act," S. 104, is similar to a bill passed in the Senate last year. It calls for
construction of temporary storage, a safe way to transport the waste, and more studies leading to a permanent site 1,200 feet below the ground at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Already, $6 billion has helped bore an exploratory tunnel there.
Last year, the bill wasn't taken up in the House because of a veto threat by President Clinton.
In the most unusual exchange at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing, Thomas P. Grumbly of the Department of Energy gave more than a dozen noncommittal answers to the chairman's dogged questioning on whether the administration would support a permanent repository at Yucca (em even if scientific and regulatory measures were met.
One of the DOE undersecretary's final answer wandered this way: "Since Nevada is the only place we're investigating at the moment, if we follow all the circumstances that are going down the road, I have no reason to believe today that we wouldn't continue to support geological repository. And if all of those indications are clear, since that's the only place that we're investigating, ipso facto your answer has to be (em I suppose (em the right one."
The overpacked committee chamber laughed at the reply. "I think it's clear that you don't care to answer the question," said Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), committee chairman.