Nuclear Waste Plan
Survives in Senate
The Senate yesterday narrowly blocked a challenge to an Energy Department plan to leave some radioactive waste from Cold War bombmaking operations buried in the ground at nuclear weapons sites.
By a 48 to 48 tie vote that closely followed party lines, the Senate rejected an amendment to the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill that would have prevented South Carolina from moving ahead with such a cleanup plan at the Savannah River weapons site.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) warned that the Energy Department is trying to set a precedent that would undo a long-standing environmental policy that requires high-level wastes to be removed from sites and stored at a federal depository in Nevada.
"This is the latest crescendo of an administration that is trying to rewrite environmental law," Cantwell said. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in her state was once the main factory for making weapons-grade plutonium. It now stores about two-thirds of the country's high-level radioactive waste.
A federal court in Idaho last year ruled against an Energy Department effort to leave some of the material in huge tanks. Environmental organizations contend that entombing what remains of these wastes in concrete and sand, as proposed by the Energy Department, is inadequate.
House Passes Bill
On Reemployment Aid
Unemployed workers may be eligible, under a bill passed by the House, for as much as $3,000 in aid to pay for job training, child care, transportation and housing while looking for work.
The bill, passed on a mostly party-line vote of 213 to 203, would set up a pilot project to demonstrate the personal reemployment accounts backed by President Bush.
Democrats said the accounts would shortchange the unemployed.
The administration strongly supported the bill, although it is a scaled-back version of a $3.6 billion nationwide program proposed by Bush's Republican allies in Congress last year.
Limits Backed on Sales
Of Steroid Precursors
The House overwhelmingly voted to limit the sales of steroid precursors such as androstenedione after congressional and public pressure to stamp out the use of performance-enhancing drugs among baseball players.
The bill, passed 408 to 3, would ban over-the-counter sales of precursors, which act like steroids in the human body.
"We are here to say enough is enough by making it harder to traffic in steroids and making sure there are tough penalties for those who do," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.).
The bill would also double the penalties for manufacturing or distributing anabolic steroids at or near a sports facility.
Congress has taken an increased interest in the issue this year after reports of steroid use among athletes, particularly professional baseball players.
Ban on Adoptions From
Chinese Facility Lifted
The United States has lifted a temporary ban on adoptions from a Chinese orphanage that had been imposed because of a measles outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
All the children in the Zhuzhou Child Welfare Institute have been vaccinated against measles, and the outbreak -- which spread to the United States as parents brought their newly adopted children home -- has ended, the CDC said.
The CDC issued the ban in April after nine of 12 children adopted in March came down with measles, a potentially serious and even fatal viral infection.
-- Compiled from reports
by staff writer Dan Morgan
and news services