Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, The Heritage Foundation published a blog in The Foundry entitled “Concerns Over Nuclear Waste Importation Should Not Lead to Ban.” You can read it here. Congressman Bart Gordon, a sponsor of the legislation, asked us for the opportunity to respond. While we may have policy differences, an open and transparent debate on these matters is essential to good governance. We welcome Congressman Gordon’s response below.

Concerns Over Nuclear Waste Importation SHOULD Lead to Ban

While I was encouraged to see the Heritage Foundation is taking an interest in the Radioactive Import Deterrence Act, the organization’s recent posting on its blog, The Foundry, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the fundamental goals of this legislation.

Currently, no other nation in the world takes in another country’s nuclear waste for permanent disposal and perpetual monitoring. Every nation has a responsibility to take care of its own waste. Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission received the initial application for the importation of 20,000 tons of Italian waste, there have been applications to bring in both Mexican and Brazilian nuclear waste. The sites we have licensed in the U.S. were established to dispose of the waste from our own nuclear power plants and other facilities, and we expect that need to grow rapidly with the planned expansion of nuclear power, which I and the bill’s other authors support. The RID Act would set an important precedent.

We cannot and should not send the message to the world that the U.S. is willing to be their nuclear waste repository. Permanent disposal of another country’s waste is not, nor has it ever been, a part of any agreement on nuclear fuel cycle technology cooperation – agreements that the U.S. has with 41 other countries, including India, China and the United Arab Emirates. Surely, the Heritage Foundation isn’t proposing that we take the nuclear waste from all of those countries! The RID Act prevents the U.S. from becoming a global dumping ground, while offering the President an opportunity to exempt shipments that advance important policy goals.

The Heritage Foundation’s posting also states – without any evidence – that somehow if the U.S. doesn’t dispose of other countries’ nuclear waste, our companies will lose some sort of competitive edge. Since no other country takes in foreign nuclear waste, that is a false argument. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop a U.S. company from building a waste processing facility in another country and using their technology to treat that country’s waste. At least two companies have already said they intend to do so.

We already have limited space in our country for the radioactive waste generated by American entities, and it should be preserved for them. I look forward to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s consideration of this important bill, and I hope that my colleagues take the time to consider the important objectives of the bill and its careful protection of our domestic industries.

Congressman Bart Gordon represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives where he is the Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The views expressed by guest bloggers on The Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.