LAS VEGAS >> Nevada’s congressional delegation was close to united Thursday against President Donald Trump’s request for Congress to allocate $120 million to restart a licensing process for a national nuclear waste dump in the desert outside Las Vegas.
The state’s U.S. senators, Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, sent a letter to new Energy Secretary Rick Perry declaring the mothballed Yucca Mountain project is already dead.
“This reckless proposal will not revive it,” Heller declared. “Nevada has been saying for years: We will not be the nation’s nuclear waste dump.”
The three Democrats among the state’s four congressional representatives also expressed opposition to Trump’s budget request. Only Republican Rep. Mark Amodei did not issue an immediate comment. He has said he is open to completing Yucca Mountain’s licensing process.
Masto joined Heller in a statement that said Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings alone could cost more than $1.6 billion dollars, which she said would be “a colossal waste of taxpayer money.”
Nevada is gearing up to add dozens more reasons to a list of 218 already accepted by the NRC about why transporting, storing and monitoring the most radioactive material in the U.S. cannot be done safely at Yucca Mountain.
Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen, and Jacky Rosen restated their opposition to accepting and entombing more than 77,000 tons of spent nuclear reactor fuel from more than 100 power plants and research facilities around the country.
Kihuen noted the Nevada delegation is sponsoring a bill, the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act, to prohibit the federal government from putting a repository in a state that doesn’t want it.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval promised “relentless opposition and maximum resources” to block a project that GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt derided as “the poster child for federal overreach.”
State lawmakers were asked this week to commit $3.6 million a year for the next two years to continue the legal and administrative fight.
One of Sandoval’s predecessors, the late Republican Kenny Guinn, found in 2002 that the state could not veto congressional approval for the Yucca Mountain site, an arid former volcanic ridge first identified as a possible nuclear dump in 1982.
Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid in 2007 convinced Congress to cut off federal funding for Yucca Mountain. He declared the proposal dead, and the Energy Department under President Barack Obama shuttered the project in 2010.
A federal court in 2013 revived the proposal when it ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume the Yucca Mountain licensing process. It cited lawsuits by states and utilities promised a place to put their radioactive waste.
Texas this week lodged another lawsuit with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to spur the NRC to decide if Yucca Mountain is safe and should be licensed to accept spent nuclear fuel.
In Nevada’s rural Nye County which would be home to the repository, County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen welcomed the president’s budget request as a potential catalyst for job creation and infrastructure development.