With the recent environmental spill in Tennessee, it is now more important than ever that the United States examine the associated risks with the kinds of waste our country handles. Today, Congressman Bart Gordon and Senator Lamar Alexander introduced bills in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively, to ban the importation of foreign-generated radioactive waste.
“The United States is the only country in the world that imports the radioactive waste of other countries and disposes of it,” Gordon said. “If a country is going to build nuclear plants, it has a responsibility to also build disposal sites.”
“I agree with Congressman Gordon that the United States shouldn’t become the world’s nuclear garbage dump and that’s why I’m introducing a version of his bill in the Senate,” Alexander said. “We still haven’t figured out what to do with our own radioactive waste, so there’s no reason to take it in from the rest of the world. I commend Congressman Gordon for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to working with him to pass this legislation.”
The legislation introduced by Alexander in the Senate and Gordon in the House is titled the Radioactive Import Deterrence Act, or “The RID Act.” The bill would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from authorizing the importation of foreign-generated low-level radioactive waste unless the President deems the importation would meet certain national and international goals.
“This bill affects Tennessee directly,” Gordon added. “A company is currently trying to import 20,000 tons of Italian nuclear waste into the U.S. where it would be reprocessed in Tennessee and then shipped to Utah for disposal. One can only wonder what the effects would be if there was an environmental spill like the recent TVA disaster, but this time involving radioactive materials.”
Currently, a permit is pending with the (NRC) to import 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste into the U.S., which would amount to the largest importation ever of foreign radioactive waste. Other countries are pending approval to send low-level radioactive waste to the U.S. for reprocessing and disposal. With limited space for nuclear waste disposal and 104 commercial nuclear plants in the U.S. helping to power 20% of our energy needs, disposal space should be reserved for domestic needs.
“The RID Act” has already generated substantial bipartisan support in the House, and it is expected to do so in the Senate as well. Alexander and Gordon are hopeful that the bill will move through both the Senate and the House and make it to President-elect Obama’s desk during the next year.