Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and four other governors urged a House subcommittee yesterday to stop the Energy Department from considering their states as the site for a large nuclear waste dump.
Baliles told the House subcommittee on energy conservation and power that the Energy Department had ignored its own specifications when it suggested that three locations in Virginia may be appropriate for the nation's second national depository of nuclear wastes.
The first national nuclear dump is to be located at a still unselected western site, probably in Nevada, Washington or Texas. It is scheduled to begin receiving spent fuel and high-level waste for disposal in 1998.
The department has identified 12 primary locations in seven eastern and midwestern states, plus eight secondary sites in four of those states. Although Congress has not authorized the dump's construction, the issue has encountered opposition in all seven states.
Nuclear wastes now are deposited in private dumps, but those sites are scheduled to be closed.
Baliles said yesterday that Energy "is not responding to, or may even be ignoring, evidence" that demonstrates that the Virginia sites "should be eliminated from further consideration." The department is following a "no data is good data" approach, the governor said.
Baliles said the suggested 209-square-mile area near Roanoke should be disqualified because it includes part of the city of Bedford. A 307-square-mile area in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties in Southside Virginia is not suited because of geologic faults and nearby uranium deposits, he said. The secondary location, a 64-square-mile area northwest of Richmond, has recorded 216 earthquakes since 1774, he said.
Govs. Joseph E. Brennan of Maine, Anthony S. Earl of Wisconsin, James G. Martin of North Carolina and Rudy Perpich of Minnesota also urged Congress to exercise its oversight power to change the waste plans. Sites in New Hampshire and Georgia also are being considered.
Brennan said he had "not seen any outpouring like this since the Vietnam War."
Earl said "Wisconsin feels threatened by this as nothing else that has appeared on the scene in years." Voters there rejected the idea of a nuclear dump by a 9-to-1 ratio last year, he said.
All the governors except Baliles questioned the need for a second national dump, saying early projections of the use of nuclear power have been reduced in recent years. "It would be difficult to quarrel with a site that met all the standards," Baliles said afterward.
Unlike the other governors, Baliles also declined an invitation from Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the subcommittee chairman, to criticize nuclear power. Baliles said after the hearing that "the stability of electric rates is traceable" to Virginia Power's two nuclear plants, which produce about 19 percent of the electricity used in the state.
After a morning of what one congressman called "DOE bashing," Ben C. Rusche, director of the department's office of civilian radioactive waste management, defended both the method of site selection and the need for a second location.
Rusche acknowledged there were "some germs of truth and relevance in all that was said" by the governors. The dozen primary locations are "acceptable for study," he said, but he added, "We're at a very, very early stage of screening."
On Tuesday, senators from Virginia, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Hampshire introduced legislation to halt the search for a second site.