Yucca Mountain is a story that will not go away. It popped back up in the news in March when the Trump administration announced efforts to revive the licensing process of the proposed nuclear waste repository north of Las Vegas. The Obama administration halted the licensing process for Yucca in 2011.
Opposing such efforts will likely be the top legislative priority for Nevada tourism groups for the rest of the year.
In the meantime, Nye County has been supportive of building the repository, but Nevada’s congressional delegation has opposed it.
According to recent reports in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was questioned in March about the President’s plans to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain and have budget requests for $120 million put into the 2019 Department of Energy budget, which begins Oct. 1.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking $47 million to hire staff for the licensing process.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent on the Yucca Mountain proposal. Some have said it is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, while others contend that what has been spent should have resolved the issue by now.
A Review-Journal article noted the Department of Energy made a similar funding request last year, but it was not acted on by the Senate.
The article further noted, “In 1987, Congress designated Yucca Mountain as a national repository for nuclear waste. Failure of the federal government to build a permanent repository has created a stockpile of waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants.”
Nevada has fought the designation of Yucca Mountain, arguing that its residents should not be forced to store the waste that, in a sense, comes from somebody else’s backyard. Nevada has no nuclear power plants and receives no nuclear generated power.
In the meantime, the article stated that Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located, does support the reviving of the licensing process, aimed at determining whether it would be a safe repository site.
Both Nevada U.S. Senators Heller and Catherine Cortez-Masto do not favor such action and, along with other members of the Nevada delegation, have issued letters of complaint that local officials were not informed of these renewal processes and did not have a voice in the decisions.
Heller and Cortez-Masto have filed legislation that would require local states, governments, and Native American tribes to be consulted before designating a site for nuclear storage.
On the other side of the issue, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and nine rural counties, including Nye County, have said the licensing process should continue, to determine whether Yucca Mountain is safe.