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Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Storage Infringes on Native Rights

Risks for Tribes Could Endanger Future Generations
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
May 9th, 2002

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Tom Goldtooth, (218) 751-4967
Raymond Yowell, (775) 744-4523
Diana McKeown, (612) 623-3666

BEMIDJI, MN -- A tribal leader from Nevada and Native and non-Native environmental groups are disappointed with the House of Representatives vote today to approve Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository, overriding the veto of Nevada Governor Guinn.

Nevada is the national site for the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste. The proposed plan by the Bush administration to utilize Yucca Mountain, in Nevada is flawed in many ways. Yucca Mountain lies in an earthquake zone and atop a drinking water aquifer. Yucca Mountain is also a spiritually, culturally and historically significant area according to leaders of the Western Shoshone National Council. "Yucca Mountain is a sacred site in our sovereign territory of the Newe Sogobia," said Chief Raymond Yowell. "The Bush administration has not consulted with our people on this serious issue that could endanger the future of our tribal nation."

Members of the Western Shoshone nation of Newe Sogobia, known as Nevada, still maintain land claims of Yucca Mountain and lands of New Sogobia, which was formalized in the 1863 treaty of Ruby Valley.

This project will attempt to send radioactive and toxic waste from all over the country to the Yucca Mountain repository. "For the House to support the Bush administrations plan to dump this country's nuclear waste on the backs of our Native Americans is an insult. This is an extreme act of environmental racism and travesty against tribal rights," says Tom Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, with its national office located in Minnesota.

Majority of the nuclear waste destined for Yucca Mountain is from nuclear power plants throughout the country. Nuclear waste will still remain onsite at these power plants in storage ponds. Yowell further stated, "Yucca Mountain will not solve the nuclear waste problem. The industry will continue to create it. I hear the Bush energy plan is even proposing to build more nuclear power plants in the next couple decades. Yucca Mountain is not a responsible solution to our nation's nuclear waste management problem."

In Minnesota, Xcel Energy operates two nuclear power plants with one plant located next door to the Prairie Island Dakota community. The Dakota tribe has always been concerned of the Xcel energy plant next door to their tribal homes and children playgrounds. "The proposal to move nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain will not rid Prairie Island of nuclear waste currently stored on the banks of the Mississippi River," noted Diana McKeown, Energy Program Coordinator for Clean Water Action Alliance. "As each nuclear waste cask is slowly moved from Prairie Island to Yucca Mountain it will be replaced with another full cask of waste on the Island. The result being that we will always have 17 casks of nuclear waste casks on Prairie Island as long as the plant continues to operate." The Prairie Island tribe has been in support of the Yucca Mountain repository in hopes of ridding the nuclear waste from their backyard.

"United States and Minnesota citizens, and the House are getting duped with nuclear industry propaganda that portrays nuclear energy as a clean and safe source of power to make our morning coffee. Its not safe, it's an accident waiting to happen, whether it's in energy generation, transportation or the storage process," noted Goldtooth. "Concerned tribal members, from Prairie Island, to the Western Shoshone in Nevada and the Skull Valley Goshute Shoshone in Utah are trying to tell all Americans the risks are too great and they don't want this dangerous radioactive waste in anybody's backyard."

"We need to have a discussion about the true costs of nuclear power, which we know poses unnecessary risks for our communities, environment and future generations" explained McKeown. "Truly responsible nuclear waste management requires a democratic process that is independent from the financial interests of the nuclear industry. We need a process that the public and tribes would have confidence in and, most importantly, is based on science, not politics."

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The House approved the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. 306 for, 117 against, 12 not voting (including Waxman and Nadler who would have voted against). The list of who voted how is up on the web.