Mr. SHIMKUS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to thank my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee. I don't come down to the floor often. This is a special occasion and a special time to bring focus on Yucca Mountain.
As the investigation continues into the shutdown of Yucca Mountain, we have heard over and over again that the licensing application should move forward and let the science speak for itself.
The $10 million provided in the bill is a start but too low for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do anything functional toward reviewing the licensing application. In fact, just a few years ago, they were receiving nearly $60 million for these efforts.
In addition, the Shimkus-Inslee amendment--it didn't officially get recorded that way, but that was our intent, that Jay Inslee, my friend from Washington State, would join me. The amendment adds $10 million to continue the Yucca Mountain license application. There is $10 million in the bill, and my amendment would take it to $20 million.
Our amendment is budget neutral and fully offset by taking funds from the DOE's departmental administration account. We are asking DOE to do more with less by making modest cuts to an account for salaries and expenses. And, again, I want to thank the Appropriations Committee for helping us find a way to move in this direction. Again I want to thank my colleague Mr. Inslee for supporting this amendment.
I have had a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle talk to me about when are we going to have a vote on the floor to show our support for what we have done? What we have done historically, in 1982 the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed, 30 years, countless different administrations on both sides of the aisle, different control of the Chamber here, both parties.
This has been our consistent policy for 30 years. Now, with Japan and Fukushima Daiichi and part of the problem being high-level nuclear waste stored in pools, we have to have a centralized location. This amendment says let us finish the science to get to the final permit, and let that science be the judge. It's providing the money.
But I will tell you that we have high-level nuclear waste all over this country, and we need it in one centralized location. It has been our policy that that would be Yucca Mountain--an isolated area in Nevada, in the desert, 90 miles from Las Vegas. It's underneath a mountain, in the desert, in one of the most arid places in this country. If we can't store it there, we really can't store it anywhere. As you've heard from my colleagues already this evening, it is stored in locations we should
not have it.
Again, I really want to thank the Appropriations Committee for helping me through this process. We need a vote. I will call for a vote.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of Mr. Shimkus' and Mr. Inslee's amendment, and I congratulate them on bringing this very important amendment to the floor in this appropriations bill.
Just across the Savannah River from my district is the Savannah River site. I've been over there very many times, and I am very concerned about the storage of nuclear materials that are there on the site, and that's happening all over this country. We hear people talk about this as nuclear waste, but I don't view it that way. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of energy in the fuel rods and in the nuclear material that's being stored at facilities all over this country. We just don't know
how to utilize it, and we're just beginning that process.
Some of these fast reactors, small modular reactors, would burn up a lot of this nuclear material and would provide energy that is drastically needed. Yet, Mr. Chairman, one man from Nevada--a staffer, who left from being on staff in the U.S. Senate and went to the administration--has, what I consider to be, illegally closed up Yucca Mountain. This administration has illegally closed up Yucca Mountain.
This facility has been studied at great lengths. I'm on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and am the Subcommittee chairman for Investigations and Oversight. We've looked at this. We've had hearings. In fact, I just recently had a group of people from our local area, the Augusta area--and North Augusta, in the South Carolina area of Aiken County, where SRS is--testify about what's going on and about Yucca Mountain.
It is critical that we as a Congress do what the law requires. We need a central repository. We need somewhere we can store this material, not as waste, but we need a repository so that this material can be set in a safe, scientifically studied area that won't harm anybody. Yucca fits all of those categories. It's the only place in this country that does. We can store this material until we can utilize it.
We need to be energy independent as a Nation. Nuclear energy is going to be one of the keys of an all-of-the-above energy policy. We, on our side, have been fighting for that, and I know some Democrats are very supportive of nuclear energy, as I am. I am an ardent supporter of nuclear energy, and I think it's absolutely critical in order for us to go forward. Yucca Mountain has to be a part of that formula, and we cannot close it up. We've spent billions of taxpayer dollars on this facility.
One man, because he doesn't want it in his backyard, has prompted this administration to close it up. We've got to open it up.
So I congratulate Mr. Inslee and particularly my dear friend John Shimkus from Illinois for bringing this amendment to the floor. We need to support it. We need to have a vote on it so that we can show how important this is to Members of Congress. I congratulate them, and I wholeheartedly support it, and hope other Members of Congress will support it, too.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I strongly support, Mr. Chairman, the Shimkus-Inslee amendment.
This administration's Yucca Mountain policy has been, at best, irresponsible with the taxpayers' time and treasure. Most Members in this room have voted many times in support of this project. For years, we supported it as the law of the land, and ensured that the scientific review process continued so we could understand how good the site was.
Despite more than the $15 billion already spent on the site or the more than $16 billion in potential fines that the taxpayer is facing because the administration has not fulfilled its responsibility to take spent fuel off the hands of so many utilities, this administration has persisted in a backroom political deal to shut down the project. Yet, despite the administration's best efforts to hide from the public the inconvenient facts, we now know that the science does support Yucca Mountain as
a long-term geological repository. The NRC's review, which was virtually complete when the administration pulled the plug, apparently shows that the site can safely store the fuel for thousands and thousands of years if that is necessary.
Even in the face of this, the administration hasn't changed its position. We can only keep the pressure on and trust that good policy and good science will eventually overcome bad politics. We need to finish the Yucca Mountain license application so that we as a Nation can take into account all of the facts as we determine the future of nuclear energy in this country.
I want to thank the gentlemen, both Mr. Inslee and Mr. Shimkus--members of the authorizing committee.
I had an opportunity, as an observer, to attend Mr. Shimkus' subcommittee. May I say I was impressed by how the gentleman from Illinois questioned the NRC commissioners, and particularly the chairman, on some of the very questions the gentleman from Illinois and other Members have raised.
I want to commend you for your vigor and for your astuteness and for coming to the floor with this very important amendment.
I would be happy to yield, unless he cares to have his own time, to the ranking member, the gentleman from Indiana.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the chairman's yielding. I would just add two brief comments in support of the amendment and of the chairman's remarks.
The administration's attempts to shut this activity down, I believe, are without scientific merit, and are contrary to existing law and congressional direction.
I believe that the Federal Government has a responsibility to demonstrate its capability to meet its contractual obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by addressing the spent fuel and other high-level nuclear waste at permanently shutdown reactors.
So, again, I will join in support of the amendment.