A Contentious Bill Passes Senate (em Two Votes Shy of Blocking a Veto
Recently passed by the U.S. Senate, nuclear waste bill S. 104 lies mired in quicksand, facing a promised presidential veto, not to mention attacks from senators representing those states targeted for possible waste storage sites. Disposal of waste from the nation's nuclear generating plants has turned into possibly the most contentious issue on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) showed how serious he was about nuclear waste disposal last February when he held up confirmation of Energy Secretary Federico Peña. He would not allow the appointment to move forward until he received assurances from the Clinton Administration that it would consider safe interim storage for the high-level radioactive waste.
On April 15, the Senate passed The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, S. 104, by a vote of 65-34. Murkowski, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, had proposed the bill, which calls for interim storage of nuclear waste now stored at 80 locations in 41 states. The waste would be stored at the Nevada Test Site, which had previously been used to explode nuclear weapons. It would remain at the temporary site until a location for permanent storage (em presently proposed for Yucca Mountain, Nevada (em could be made ready.
Nevada's two Democrat Senators, Richard Bryan and Harry Reid, remain adamant that their state (which has no working nuclear plants) should not take on the risks associated with nuclear waste storage. In fact, when Murkowski scheduled April 8 for debate on S. 104, he had to maneuver to cut off a filibuster threatened by the Nevada senators.