View to the south of Yucca Mountain crest showing coring activities in 2006. Nevada has been fighting the dump for nearly 40 years. (DOE photo)
The Nevada delegation scored a victory Tuesday in the decades-old fight over nuclear waste funding.
The House Appropriations Committee voted down a Republican amendment that would have provided funding to continue the licensing process for the planned federal repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.
The amendment narrowly failed with a 27 to 25 vote.
Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID) introduced the amendment on the committee floor.
“Taxpayers in all 435 congressional districts are paying approximately 2.2 million dollars a day every day for the cost of temporary or on-site storage,” Simpson said during the hearing. “It is beyond time we complete the Yucca Mountain licensing application process.”
Of the 53 members of the committee, 48 of them have nuclear waste in their states, said Simpson during the hearing.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the second-longest serving current Member on the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the amendment.
“We can do better than have a tired old argument about Yucca Mountain as proposed in this amendment. Even if we restarted today Yucca Mountain is decades away from accepting waste for permanent disposal,” Kaptur said, adding that the sums requested in the amendment funding would detract from other priorities.
Last year, Appropriations Committee members, including now-chair Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Kaptur approved nuclear waste legislation with Yucca funding.
With support from both sides of the aisle, that legislation passed the Republican-controlled Congress, with 340 members voting in support of Yucca Mountain and only 72 voting against it. Senate Democrats blocked Yucca funding last year, however, in an effort to save the re-election bid of former Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). He lost the election.
The Trump administration relaunched efforts to fund the project in its budget this year, requesting $116 million to restart the licensing process for Yucca.
Members of the Nevada delegation have acknowledged it is more challenging to keep Yucca stalled without the presence of powerful former Sen. Harry Reid, who retired in 2017.
In a statement, Rep. Steven Horsford said the entire Nevada delegation fought to kill the amendment.
“I am proud that the Committee heard our arguments against Yucca Mountain,” Horsford said. “The people of Nevada have made themselves clear time and time again. We do not want our state to be the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste. Moving forward, we must urge our colleagues to work toward a consent-based solution for the storage of nuclear waste, one that does not force it on those unwilling to accept it.”
Rep. Dina Titus said she would continue working closely with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and the rest of the Nevada congressional delegation “to make sure this unsafe, unsound project never sees the light of day.”
“Our state does not use nuclear energy, we do not produce nuclear waste, and we should not be forced to store it – not now and not ever,” Titus said in a statement.
There are 121 sites in 39 states with spent nuclear fuel. There are currently 80,000 metric tons of it in temporary storage around the U.S., but most experts recommend a consolidated, closely monitored, long-term storage site. As part of the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act Congress required the Department of Energy to find a long-term storage site. Yucca has been the only site on the government’s list for “deep geological disposal” of nuclear waste for more than 30 years.
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