House tosses aside another bid to close out Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON — A second effort to water down a pro-Yucca Mountain bill in the House was squashed on Wednesday.

Along with $25 million, an energy spending bill for 2014 would forbid the Department of Energy from exploring alternatives to the dormant Nevada nuclear waste program, or from taking any actions to close it out entirely.

The “Yucca or nothing” provision was authored by House leaders and supported by lawmakers from nuclear plant states hoping to resurrect the project that the Obama administration has refused to fund since 2009.

The administration has taken steps to devise new approaches to manage highly radioactive waste, with the encouragement of officials from Nevada, where the Yucca Mountain program has been politically unpopular.

The Yucca project envisioned carving a warren of tunnels within the mountain ridge 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. More than 77,000 tons of nuclear waste would be buried in corrosion-resistant containers, a design whose safety was hotly debated for two decades.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., sought to remove the “Yucca or nothing” provision, saying it would stymie progress to come up with new strategy.

“Instead, this bill tries to turn back the clock, back to an old, flawed strategy,” Titus said. “It’s Groundhog Day here in the United States House of Representatives.”

The Titus amendment was killed, 87-337.

An amendment Tuesday by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., to redirect to other uses the $25 million earmarked for Yucca Mountain failed by a similar margin, 81-335.

“The House has repeatedly had overwhelming votes in support of continuing the Yucca Mountain repository,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the energy subcommittee that formed the bill.

“The American people support what we’re doing,” Frelinghuysen said.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.