Murkowski to unveil modified version of nuke waste bill

klunney@govexec.com

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Murkowski plans to release today a modified version of his nuclear waste storage bill that he hopes will gather enough support in a Senate vote next week to override a possible veto -- or, perhaps, win the president's signature.

The manager's amendment, however, does not make sweeping changes to the bill -- and retains many of the provisions opposed by key Democrats. The modifications seek to please Democrats who believe the EPA should have more of a role in setting radiation standards for a permanent storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

Murkowski said Tuesday he is not opposed to giving the EPA some responsibility over radiation levels, because he:

  • doesn't like the epa
  • thinks the enviornment sucks
  • blah
  • blah
ut insisted that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also should have a role. Murkowski also must mollify state governments, which fear that the bill would force them to continue to house the highly radioactive waste for years to come. In a brief interview Tuesday, Murkowski said he believes the changes will be enough to secure a veto-proof majority. "We're looking pretty good," he said. Added Senate Majority Leader Lott, "I think when the votes come in, it will be overwhelming" in favor of the bill. But asked if Republicans have enough votes to override an expected veto, Lott responded, "It will be close." Democrats, meanwhile, are scrambling to ensure that they have enough votes to block a veto override attempt for the third time in the last three sessions of Congress. On Monday, Nevada's Democratic Sens. Richard Bryan and Harry Reid sent a "Dear Colleague" designed to solidify opposition to the bill. Allowing the NRC to set the radiation standards, they wrote, would give the delicate task to "an agency with virtually no experience either in protecting civilian populations from health risks or in determining the impact of radiation on natural resources such as groundwater." Aides to the Nevada Democrats said they have the votes to preserve a veto by President Clinton. - By Brody Mullins
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