“We don’t even produce nuclear energy” – Nevada senators fight Yucca at hearing

Yucca no.
Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen (Rosen Senate office photo).
Yucca no.
Sen. Jacky Rosen testifying May 1 against restarting the Yucca Mountain siting process. (Rosen Senate office photo).

Nevada senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen testified against the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019 during a hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Tuesday. The measure would restart the process of attempting to license nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.

Cortez Masto told the committee people “falsely” believe Yucca Mountain is prepared for nuclear waste disposal, adding that there are “no waste disposal tunnels. No waste handling facilities. No monitoring infrastructure. No containment infrastructure. No railroad infrastructure needed for transporting waste into the site.”

Calling Yucca Mountain “a five mile exploratory hole in the ground” and a “national security threat” Cortez Masto said that seismic activity and the area’s penchant for earthquakes, as well as it’s position over an aquifer, makes it unsuitable as nuclear waste repository.

“For over 30 years, many in Congress have been trying to force a repository facility on Nevada, despite the fact that Nevada does not generate or consume nuclear energy, and that Yucca Mountain is a seismically and geologically unfit site to store this dangerous material,” Cortez Masto said.

“I ask you to put yourselves in the shoes of Nevadans. Imagine having nuclear waste sent to your communities without your input, without a fair process.”

EPW Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) is reviving legislation intended to move toward storing nuclear waste in Nevada.

The draft bill is nearly identical to the same-named legislation passed by the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 340 to 72.

“If we are serious about addressing climate change we must be serious about preserving and expanding nuclear energy use,” Barrasso said during the hearing. “That means keeping our commitment to the 121 communities in 39 states where nuclear waste is located.”

According to Cortez Masto, former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said that if nuclear waste were stored in Yucca Mountain, it would harm the military’s ability to train for combat due to its proximity to the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Cortez Masto pushed instead for legislation she introduced with Rosen which would require the federal government to obtain the consent of a potential host state before moving forward.

That legislation is also co-sponsored by several senators who are running for president:Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In a statement Wednesday, Sanders called the move to send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain “a geological, environmental and social disaster.”

It is completely unacceptable to violate tribal treaty rights and the will of ordinary Nevadans by constructing a permanent spent-fuel repository at Yucca Mountain,” Sanders said. “We must abandon the idea that Yucca Mountain can solve our nuclear waste problems, stop building new nuclear power plants and find a real solution to our existing nuclear waste problem.”

Rosen echoed Cortez Masto’s rejection of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, saying efforts to restart funding for the licensing the project isplacing the entire burden on Nevada, and we don’t even produce nuclear energy.”

“Once again, this bill further takes away Nevada’s voice by moving forward with the Yucca Mountain project without a consent-based process in place,” said Rosen. “Nevada does not want – nor has ever wanted – to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.”

Rosen said much of the transported waste would travel through Las Vegas and dozens of other major cities across this country, putting the safety and public health of millions at risk.

“That nuclear waste would be transported weekly through a total of 44 states including many represented on this committee today: Wyoming, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Idaho and all the rest,” Rosen said. “It is hard to imagine that shipping over 5,000 truck casks of high-level nuclear waste over a span of 50 years, won’t result in at least one radiological release somewhere in this country.”

In 1982, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, requiring the establishment of 2 repositories one on each side of the country to store nuclear waste. A second repository site was never identified unraveling a key compromise of the original law. Congress eventually designated Yucca Mountain as the sole site for nuclear waste disposal, despite strong opposition from the State of Nevada.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.


  1. The high-level nuclear waste generated by nuclear power reactors should be kept where it was created.

  2. According to Wikipedia, approximately 10,000 metric tons of the 77,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to initially fill Yucca Mountain will be “defense waste”. This waste is the byproducts from the production of materials such as plutonium during the cold war effort. This waste currently sits at sites that include the Hanford Site in Washington state and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. In addition, spent nuclear fuel used to power US Navy nuclear vessels will also be shipped to Yucca Mountain. Jacky Rosen is showing her ignorance when she (as well as the rest of the Nevada delegation) states that “we don’t even produce nuclear energy” as an excuse for not siting the repository in Nevada. Nevada as well as the other 49 states benefits from the protection of the nation provided by the US Military; hence, that’s no excuse for not having the repository there. States such as Washington, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and New Mexico all had a part in the production of the material used by the military; Nevada can too. Jacky et. al. can argue that Nevada doesn’t have any commercial nuclear reactors in the state; it certainly uses power produced by them – the Palo Verde reactors in nearby Phoenix put power on the electrical grid that passes right into Nevada. Again, the ignorance of the Nevada delegation is amazing. These politicians must not have advanced beyond eighth grade science classes.

  3. The politicians that think it is safe and want to ship that waste to Nevada, create a MANDATE that ALL politician’s that vote to move that waste to Nevada, to LIVE with ALL of their kids and grandchildren etc. FOR LIFE right at the opening of the site… Once the Mandate is in force watch how fast the entire project be abandoned permanently…

  4. @William Tell

    If all the states benefit from the nuclear waste why store it ONLY in Nevada? and so close to Las Vegas? one “accident” and the entire city of Las Vegas would be gone… There is no way they can guarantee the safety of all Nevadans and the tourists in Las Vegas…. Tourism will slow down as no one would want to risk being in Las Vegas if/when it happens…. That will slowly kill the cities economy…

    So what is the excuse of not storing the waste AT the plants that made the waste? Why not keep it in “Hanford Site in Washington state and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.” Why not store it in “Washington, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and New Mexico”

    You say over and over again on how NOT producing nuclear waste is not an excuse…. So why not store it in any other state? What are their excuses not to store it in their state?


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