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Senate Committee OKs Berke’s Bill Against Foreign Nuclear Waste

Press Release from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, March 23, 2010:

Bill to prohibit downblending passes Environment Committee 5-4

NASHVILLE – A Senate committee Tuesday passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) to stop 20,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste from potentially being stranded in Tennessee by prohibiting nuclear waste “downblending.”

“We’re one step closer to ensuring that Tennessee doesn’t become the world’s nuclear dumping ground,” Berke said. “I applaud the members of the Senate Environment Committee who placed the safety of Tennessee families ahead of the financial interests of one Utah-based nuclear waste company.”

The Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee passed the bill 5-4 on Tuesday, meaning the bill likely will move soon to the Senate floor. The House version is in subcommittee.

Under the bill (SB2735/HB2826), Tennessee would prohibit nuclear waste downblending, which involves mixing highly toxic and radioactive “Class B and C” waste with less harmful “Class A” waste in an attempt to classify the waste as Class A.

A Utah-based nuclear waste company is applying to downblend nuclear waste at its Oak Ridge facility. At the same time, the company wants to import 20,000 tons of Italian radioactive waste into its Oak Ridge facility.

No state in the country allows downblending. If the Italian radioactive waste is downblended in Oak Ridge, no disposal site in the United States will accept the waste – meaning it could be stuck in Tennessee for good.

Downblending is not supported by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Tennessee already prohibits similar processes in its clean water and hazardous waste programs. Research has shown that blended waste would have a radiation dose 465 times greater than federal regulations for Class A waste.

“Tennesseans deserve lawmakers who will fight to protect their families from dangerous nuclear waste,” Berke said. “I’m not going to sit back and let Tennessee become the world’s nuclear dumpster.”

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Enviros, Unions Hoping to Get Lucky with Clean Energy Jobs Package

With lobbyists and lawmakers milling about Capitol Hill attired in festive emerald hues, a coalition of interest groups decided St. Patrick’s Day was a perfect opportunity to roll out an organized push for “green jobs” in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Legislators will start considering a bill that would help funnel federal dollars to the state to try stimulating the energy-efficiency industry. The legislation, which is expected to go before House and Senate committees next week, would build a task force devoted to helping the state attract federal dollars for green energy jobs.

“These are the jobs of the future. This is what we have to be aiming for. This and more,” said on of the proposal’s chief sponsors, Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga.

After several weeks of working potential wrinkles out of the legislation, Burke said the bill is now ready for primetime and he’ll be making its passage a priority beginning next week.

Clad in green clothes and stickers, representatives of the Green-Collar Task Force of Nashville and Davidson County, said the additional jobs would help address the state’s high unemployment and put money back into the economy.

“Green jobs are especially good because they cannot be easily outsourced, say, to Asia,” said Jerry Lee of the AFL/CIO. “If you put up solar panels, you can’t ship a building to Asia and have them put the solar panels on and ship it back. These jobs have to be done in the United States.”

House bill sponsor and Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said he didn’t know how many green jobs would be created, but speculated it could be thousands within three or four years.

Tennessee is “uniquely positioned” to house jobs in energy efficiency because of the work being done at the state’s universities, he said.