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Nevada lawmakers speaking out against plan to revive Yucca Mountain

Posted at 9:23 AM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 20:46:57-04

The White House is proposing to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste plan.

The 2018 budget plan for the U.S. Department of Energy includes $120 million to restart licensing for the proposed dump.

Yucca Mountain has been studied since the 1970s as a potential repository for the nation's radioactive waste.

President Obama withdrew the license to store waste at Yucca in 2010 because of opposition by then-Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

Some of Nevada's lawmakers are speaking out against the idea:

A partial statement from Congresswoman Jacky Rosen reads:

“Worst of all, the budget requests $120 million in funds for Yucca Mountain to make our state the country’s dumping ground for nuclear waste.”

And Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen issued this statement:

"Yucca Mountain has been dead for years. Now, President Trump wants to run roughshod over the people of Nevada and throw away funding that could be better spent on infrastructure and creating jobs. Nevada is not a dumping ground for the rest of the country's nuclear waste and our rights shouldn't be trampled over just because President Trump wants to put an unsavory waste facility in our backyard. The Nevada delegation was united in sponsoring the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act earlier this year, demanding that states be consulted before nuclear waste repositories can be built by the federal government. I urge President Trump and Secretary Perry to reconsider their reckless and haphazard scheme to throw away federal tax dollars, especially without thinking about the safety and well-being of the people of Nevada."

Governor Sandoval also issued a statement:

“Regarding Yucca Mountain, let me make my position clear – for the remainder of my term I will vigorously fight the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Nevada. Any attempt to resurrect this ill-conceived project will be met with relentless opposition, and maximum resources. Continuing down a path that seeks to force this unsafe and unwanted project on Nevada is a waste of time and money and only gets the country farther away from solving its nuclear waste problem.
I encourage the President to give the nuclear waste problem the same review process he has successfully applied to flawed contracts and government proposals so far.  The private sector has demonstrated that they can address the problem of spent nuclear fuel more efficiently, at far less expense to the federal government, and they can do so in partnership with willing host states.”

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt released this statement:

“In the coming years, I will continue to battle the poster-child for federal overreach – a battle over an unwanted nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in our beloved Nevada. My Solicitor General’s Office, senior staff and outside experts, working in conjunction with the Office of Nuclear Project’s staff and technical experts and the Governor’s Office, have been preparing for a resumption of attempts to license Yucca Mountain to store high level nuclear waste since a federal court issued its restart order.”
“Today’s announcement that the president is requesting $120 million in nuclear waste funding, part of which would be used to restart licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain repository, comes as no surprise to this team. Together, we have submitted two separate budget requests for a combined total of $3.6 million per year for the next two years (State of Nevada FY 2018-2019 biennium) to represent Nevada’s interests in the licensing proceeding. That request was based on an anticipated federal restart budget in the range of $100-150 million over the coming year, placing today’s announced federal request in line with our planning assumptions. If more funds are required, we will request additional funding from the Legislature.”
“Nevada will continue to litigate this matter aggressively and fully. We have many strong claims against the proposed nuclear repository. If the Trump administration continues along this path, we expect many years of protracted litigation in which we are confident we will ultimately prevail.”

Not everyone is opposed however.

A statement from Nye County Commissioner Chairman Dan Schinhofen reads:

With the news that President Trump has put $120 million in his budget to restart the hearings on Yucca Mountain, the host area Nye County couldn’t be more pleased. We have advocated for the rule of law and National Security now for 30-plus years.

The expected responses from the State’s delegation in Washington D.C. was not surprising, “boondoggle, dumping ground” and “bad science.” One federal representative from Nevada went as far as to say the plan is to “throw away funding that could be better spent on infrastructure and creating jobs.” It is Nye County’s contention this funding will do just the opposite: re-establish well-paying jobs that were lost, create new high-tech and construction jobs and strengthen Nevada’s infrastructure.

It is far past the time for such political science and now is the time for real science to be heard.

The State claims they have 218 contentions that prove it is not safe and we welcome the chance to have them adjudicated by a responsible none partisan office like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nye County has nine contentions to improve on the project. However, because the State refuses to sit down and talk about this, we are treated to more doom and gloom instead of waiting to hear if it can be built and constructed safely.

Safety Evaluation Reports (SER’s) released after filing with the DC Court of Appeals, show that the project can be done safely, but the final decision is with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nine rural counties in Nevada have asked for this, too.

The fund for this project holds over $30 billion now so why does the State keep spending our local tax dollars just to say no before it has been proven unsafe? It is unsafe then welcome the hearings and allow the rule of law to prevail not political gamesmanship.