House approves bill on Nevada's Yucca Mountain

Local politicians release statements slamming bill

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on legislation to revive the nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain:

9:28 a.m.

Clark County Commissioners expressed their strong opposition to proposed federal legislation that would restart the licensing process for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

"Years after federal officials recognized the shortfalls of Yucca Mountain, it is simply irresponsible to once again consider placing this dangerous burden on the citizens of Nevada,” Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said.

"The selection of Yucca Mountain more than 30 years ago was based on politics, not science, and it is disrespectful to the health and safety of all Nevadans to bring it back,” Commission Vice Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani said.

RELATED: History of Yucca Mountain | 1982-2018

Both Sisolak and Giunchigliani are running as Democrats in the Nevada gubernatorial race. 

Henderson Mayor Debra March expressed her opposition.

“I oppose this renewed effort in Congress to turn Nevada into the nation’s nuclear dump and to flood our roads and railways with dangerous shipments of radioactive waste. Nevadans have been fighting Yucca Mountain for more than three decades and we are not going to surrender now. Once again we are seeing a proposal that would force the Silver State to accept nuclear waste, that would increase the amount to be dumped in our backyard and that would mean even more shipments of this toxic trash loaded on to trains and trucks that are likely to be involved in accidents or become terrorist targets. One spill involving high-level nuclear waste could devastate Southern Nevada’s tourist economy and endanger the lives of our families, friends and neighbors.  Shame on those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the very real danger that Yucca Mountain represents and who are willing to minimize the real risks to states all across our nation that will come from transporting this nuclear waste to Nevada,”

Congresswoman Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, released a statement slamming the bill, even calling "Screw Nevada 2.0."

“I have fought the misguided and dangerous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project for my entire career and I’m not giving up. This legislation is fundamentally flawed and going nowhere in the Senate. It does nothing but to double down on the failed policies of the last 36 years. I offered the House a new path forward, one that is based on the consent of the host state and affected communities. If we are to solve this issue once and for all, we have to change directions. Nevada remains unified in opposition to turning our state into the nation’s waste dump, and that will not change.”

Congressman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, also called it a "Screw Nevada" bill.

“I am disappointed that Congress has once again chosen to ignore the will of Nevadans and residents of Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District. 30 years have passed since Nevada was unfairly targeted by the 'Screw Nevada' bill and this new bill is nothing more than lipstick on a pig. The passage of H.R. 3053 today continues to 'screw' our state, compromising our economy, the countless tourists who visit our state and the millions of residents living in Las Vegas, and the country’s national security. Simply put, there is no reason to store the nation’s spent nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and I find it offensive that Nevada is being offered up as a tribute for this project. I will continue to fight back against creating a nuclear repository in our backyard and ensure the voices of Nevadans are heard loud and clear.”

Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, D-Las Vegas, released the following statement denouncing the passage of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act. 

“Permanently storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is a reckless and ill-conceived plan that could put communities across the country in danger, jeopardize our military testing and training, waste billions more in taxpayer dollars, and harm Nevada’s tourism industry. I’m deeply disappointed to see this Republican-controlled Congress vote to ship radioactive nuclear waste across the country to this unfit site, endangering not just Nevada but countless other communities along the way. Attempting to transport tens of thousands of metric tons of hazardous waste on our highways and train tracks will create serious problems, and I will not stop educating my colleagues about these risks. The fight to kill this failed project will continue, and I will keep working diligently in Congress to repurpose Yucca Mountain into something that can create jobs while keeping our families safe.”

8:26 a.m.

The House has approved an election-year bill to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain despite opposition from home-state lawmakers.

Supporters say the bill approved Thursday would help solve a nuclear-waste storage problem that has festered for more than three decades. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants sit idle in 121 communities across 39 states.

The bill would direct the Energy Department to continue a licensing process for Yucca Mountain while moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas.

The House approved the bill, 340-72. It now goes to the Senate, where Nevada's two senators have vowed to block it.

Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto said, "Any bill that would turn Nevadans' backyards into a nuclear waste dump is dead on arrival. Yucca will never be more than a hole in the ground." 

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12:32 a.m.

The House is moving to approve an election-year bill to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain despite opposition from home-state lawmakers.

Supporters say a bill slated for a vote Thursday would help solve a nuclear-waste storage problem that has festered for more than three decades. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants sit idle in 121 communities across 39 states.

The bill would direct the Energy Department to continue a licensing process for Yucca Mountain while also moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas.

It's past time for the federal government to "fulfill its obligation and permanently dispose of the spent nuclear fuel sitting in our states, alongside our lakes, rivers and roadways," said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the bill's sponsor.

"People are ready to do something rather than nothing," he added, predicting a strong bipartisan vote in favor of the bill.

President Donald Trump's administration has proposed reviving the long-stalled Yucca project 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition from the state's governor and congressional delegation.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said the U.S. has a "moral obligation" to find a long-term solution to store spent fuel from its commercial nuclear fleet. Trump's budget proposes $120 million to revive the Yucca project.

"We can no longer kick the can down the road," Perry said last year.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican who is locked in a close race for re-election, blasted the upcoming vote as "an exercise in futility."

Heller vowed that, "Under my watch, I will not let one more hard-earned taxpayer dollar go toward this failed project - just as I have in the past. Yucca Mountain is dead, it is that simple."

Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, Heller's likely opponent in the general election, has filed an amendment that would delay any licensing activity for Yucca Mountain until the White House Office of Management and Budget conducts a study of the economic effects from alternative uses of the site.

"I'm using every tool at my disposal to put an end to this administration's reckless plans to turn Nevada into a dumping ground for highly radioactive nuclear waste," Rosen said in a statement.

She called Yucca a "failed project" and "complete waste of time and taxpayer money."

Nevada Democrats blame Heller for even allowing the vote, noting that he is a close friend of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who controls the House schedule.

"Sen. Heller tries to brag about standing between Washington and Yucca Mountain, but our weak and ineffective senator couldn't even dissuade one of his closest friends on Capitol Hill from preparing to ram this bill through the Republican-controlled House," said Sarah Abel, a spokeswoman for Nevada Democrats.

While the fight over Yucca resumes, lawmakers say they hope to make progress on a plan to temporarily house tons of spent fuel that have been piling up at nuclear reactors around the country. Private companies have proposed state-of-the-art, underground facilities in remote areas of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico to store nuclear waste for up to 40 years.

The nuclear industry has said temporary storage must be addressed since the licensing process for Yucca Mountain would take years under a best-case scenario.

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