Congressman Bart Gordon said he was pleased the U.S. Department of Energy revised its decision to send radioactive waste from New York to Tennessee for disposal in municipal landfills.
The decision comes after DOE held a conference call and was met with strong opposition to the plan from interested stakeholders, including Gordon, Tennessee environmentalists and government watchdog groups.
“This decision is a victory for Tennessee,” said Gordon. “This contaminated waste is radioactive and should be disposed of in a landfill that is officially certified to handle this kind of waste. There is no reason for New York’s radioactive waste to be dumped in any of Tennessee’s municipal landfills.”
DOE verified today that it would not move forward with original plans to dispose of low-level radioactive waste, from New York, in Tennessee. DOE has been deconstructing a closed plutonium extraction plant in Niskayuna, New York and planned to transport about 6,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil to a Tennessee municipal landfill starting in mid-October. On Thursday, October 8, DOE conducted a teleconference briefing as part of an initial public outreach campaign, and the feedback voiced by Tennessee stakeholders prompted the Department to revise its plans and dispose of the waste in a licensed low-level radioactive waste facility.
“Tennessee doesn’t have a licensed low-level radioactive waste facility. There is actually only one privately licensed facility in our country, located in Clive, Utah, and that’s where DOE is going to send this contaminated waste,” said Gordon.
Gordon has been leading the effort in Congress to ban the importation and disposal of foreign-generated radioactive waste in the United States. His bipartisan Radioactive Importation Deterrence Act (the “RID Act”) would prohibit the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from authorizing the importation of foreign-generated low-level radioactive waste for disposal in the U.S. unless the President deems the importation would meet critical national or international goals.
“It’s important for us to recognize the limited space we have in our country for radioactive waste and ban foreign countries from disposing of their waste in our soil. Unless we act, our country is destined to become the world’s dumping ground for foreign nuclear waste,” explained Gordon. “If that happens, U.S. industries and entities, like the closed plutonium plant in New York, could find themselves without adequate space to dispose of domestically-produced waste and once again try to put it in municipal landfills.”
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment will consider Gordon’s legislation Friday at a hearing.
“I have long fought to keep nuclear waste from coming into Tennessee,” said Gordon, “and I will continue to fight against the importation and disposal of foreign radioactive waste.”
A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Lamar Alexander.