Members of Nevada’s congressional delegation told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday the state will continue to fight efforts to revive a mothballed plan to bury the nation’s most radioactive waste in the Nevada desert.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he pressed the same message in a Washington, D.C., meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Sandoval issued a statement saying he remains absolutely opposed to government efforts to bury 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, even if his friend Perry, the former Texas governor, doesn’t agree.
“Nevada will continue to oppose the storage of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain at every turn,” Sandoval said.
Energy Department officials didn’t immediately respond to a message about the position of Perry, who toured the Yucca Mountain site in March. The Trump administration has called for Congress to allocate $120 million to revive the Yucca Mountain site and to develop an interim nuclear waste storage program.
The U.S. has no long-term plan to reprocess or dispose of radioactive waste produced and currently stored at more than 100 nuclear power plants around the country.
Congress approved the Yucca Mountain site in 2002, over Nevada’s objection, but then cut off funding after Harry Reid of Nevada became Senate Democratic majority leader in 2007.
On Wednesday, Dean Heller, Nevada’s Republican U.S. senator, told the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment that the Yucca Mountain project is dead, and he urged the panel to let it remain dead and not try to force it on the people of Nevada.
“Taxpayers’ dollars would be better spent identifying viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it,” Heller said in comments submitted to the committee.
Democratic Nevada congressional representatives Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen also testified in opposition.
U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, has said the facility would create jobs, and the state should negotiate for federal benefits in return for hosting it.
Committee Chairman John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, said in a statement that lawmakers want to meet a federal government obligation to dispose of our nation’s nuclear waste. Neal Cohen, an executive with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade and lobbying group, said he heard bipartisan support during the hearing “for advancing used fuel policy.”
Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto issued a statement deriding the $15 billion spent studying and testing the Yucca Mountain site since 1982, and predicting that a licensing approval process would take another five years and cost $1.6 billion.
She pointed to a 2008 report by the Energy Department estimating the end cost of the repository at nearly $100 billion.