Coleman urges Sen. Wellstone to give nuclear waste permanent home

RED WING, Minn., June 25, 2002 — U.S. Senate Candidate Norm Coleman recently pushed for the Yucca Mountain project to be approved in the Senate, calling on Senator Paul Wellstone to support his cause.

“Senator Wellstone should vote to move nuclear waste out of Minnesota by supporting the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository legislation when it comes to the floor of the Senate this summer,” said Coleman, who was the mayor of St. Paul, Minn., for 8 years. “There is simply no good reason to keep nuclear waste in our backyard. The federal government should make good on its promise to take possession of spent nuclear fuel.”

The federal government has thoroughly studied the issue for 20 years at a cost of more than $7 billion. Minnesota ratepayers alone have contributed $419 million. The results are conclusive: moving nuclear waste out of local power plants like Prairie Island to a national repository in Yucca Mountain is the safest, most economically sound solution.

Should the Senate fail to approve transfers of spent nuclear fuel from Prairie Island to Yucca Mountain, Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island plant faces a dilemma: either close its doors in 2007 or create more temporary nuclear waste facilities.

“Does Senator Wellstone want to play musical chairs across the state with nuclear waste, or ship it to a permanent home more than 1800 miles away?” asked Coleman.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Waver agreed with Coleman that moving nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain was a safe solution.

“Historically, hazardous material, including radioactive waste, has been transported on Minnesota road and rail for years without incident. Safety concerns about the transportation of radioactive waste should not be an obstacle in the Yucca Mountain debate,” Weaver said.

LeRoy Koppendrayer, a commissioner at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, joined Coleman in endorsing Yucca Mountain at a news conference in Saint Paul this morning. Koppendrayer said moving nuclear waste is safe and a sensible policy.

“Since 1953, there have been more than 900 rail shipments of spent nuclear fuel in the United States without any environmental consequence whatsoever. It is far riskier to store waste at 131 temporary sites in 39 states than to designate one secure permanent facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada,” Koppendrayer said.

The survival of the Plant in its current capacity is a major component to all the businesses up and down the river.

“Every step toward not approving removal of nuclear waste from the Prairie Island plant is a step toward reduced economic activity for Red Wing and the surrounding communities,” said Rob Magnuson, owner of the Red Wing County Market, a Red Wing grocery store. “We handle retail and commercial trade with the employees of the plant and with Xcel as a business customer. It just makes more sense to have a permanent home for nuclear waste instead of shipping it to several temporary sites.”

A vote against the Yucca Mountain repository is against health, safety, and jobs. A vote against the Yucca Mountain repository is a vote for storing nuclear waste along the Mississippi River, potentially closing the Prairie Island plant, eliminating Minnesota jobs and against affordable, safe nuclear power.

“This isn’t about politics,” said Coleman. “It’s about what’s best for our public safety and our state. There should be only one address for nuclear waste and that’s Yucca Mountain, Nevada, not Minnesota.”

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