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Press Releases :: April 6, 2006

Rep. Honda Skeptical of Administration Nuclear Power Plan

Cites Secretive Planning, Impact on Weapons Proliferation and Waste Management Programs

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Ranking Democrat on the Energy Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Science, today questioned the economic rationality of domestic nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies as well as the impact of reprocessing on energy efficiency, nuclear waste management and weapons proliferation. Honda’s doubts were raised during the Energy Subcommittee’s examination of the Bush Administration’s proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program.

"What troubles me about the GNEP proposal is the haste with which it has been developed," said Honda, "and that a closed circle of people have made all of the key decisions without much input from industry or the scientific community."

Witnesses before the Subcommittee represented a range of viewpoints, several raising similar doubts.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology nuclear and mechanical engineering professor Neil Todreas testified: "Serious decisions remain unresolved about [GNEP’s] pace, including technical readiness, facility processes and scale, and the consequences of redirecting most of the available funding for nuclear energy to this effort."

Dr. Richard Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, testified that, "Many of GNEP’s goals and timelines are just unrealistic. Such an enduring program ought to be considered in light of long-term budgets rather than near-year expenditures."

Garwin echoed Rep. Honda’s assessment that Administration decisions have been made before essential research has been completed. "GNEP R&D priorities are simply insufficient to make decisions across a wide range of critical areas - from reactor cooling methods to which fuels will power fast-neutron reactors," he said, concluding, "GNEP is an unnecessarily expensive, hastily formulated program, not the deliberative, transparent process critical for success."

Likening the GNEP decision-making process to President Bush’s Iraq war planning, Rep. Honda noted, "The Administration’s policy decisions have already been made by a closed White House club, ignoring critical facts and shunning outside expert input," he said. "They first make decisions, and then tailor convenient justifications for sale to Congress."

In conclusion, Honda voiced concern about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) openness to external advice, noting that reports about the "disbanding of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board - which was chartered to provide the Secretary with timely, balanced external advice - only reinforce the impression that outside input is unwelcome on major programs such as GNEP that are critical to America’s economy and national security."

Read Mr. Honda's opening statement »


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