House Passes Gordon’s Foreign Nuclear Waste Bill

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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Congressman Bart Gordon’s bipartisan legislation to ban the importation of foreign radioactive waste. Gordon’s bill, the Radioactive Import Deterrence (RID) Act, H.R. 515, would prevent foreign-generated radioactive waste from being processed in Tennessee and disposed in the U.S.

“The United States stands alone as the only country in the world that imports other countries’ radioactive waste for permanent disposal,” Gordon said as he explained his bill on the House floor. “The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently considering the importation of 20,000 tons of Italian waste. Other countries are reading the signs that the U.S. is poised to become a nuclear dumping ground, permit applications are also pending for the importation of Brazilian and Mexican waste.”

The Italian waste importation would be the largest importation ever of foreign-generated radioactive waste. If the permits for the Italian, Brazilian, and Mexican waste importations are approved, the nuclear waste shipments would be sent to Tennessee for processing and later disposed in Utah.

Gordon has led the effort in Congress to stop these importations and ban the practice of allowing other countries to dispose their radioactive waste in the U.S. The bipartisan RID Act would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from authorizing the importation of foreign-generated low-level nuclear waste for disposal in the U.S. unless the President deems the importation would meet critical national or international goals.

“This waste is generated all over the United States, but finding permanent disposal sites has proved difficult,” said Gordon. “Foreign waste threatens the capacity we have set aside in this country for the waste generated by our domestic industries—our medical facilities, university research labs and utility companies. It is critical that Congress protect that capacity. Today’s vote brings the RID Act one step closer to becoming law.”

One site, located in Utah, stores 99% of the United States’ low-level radioactive waste. Gordon’s bill would preserve the limited disposal space at this site for domestic companies that generate low-level radioactive waste. Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where Senator Lamar Alexander has introduced the companion version of Gordon’s bill.
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