Nye officials give consent to burying nuke waste

WASHINGTON -- With the federal government embarking on a new "consent-based" search for someplace to dispose of nuclear waste, officials in Nye County sent a reminder this week that they still consent to burying it at Yucca Mountain.

The county remains interested to work with the Department of Energy, even as the state has taken official positions against the proposed Yucca repository, and most elected leaders up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have fought against it.

"We want to explore and define potential incentives, and move this urgently needed program forward as promptly as possible," County Commission Chairman Joni Eastley said in a letter sent Tuesday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

As a reminder, Eastley attached four resolutions the Nye County Commission had adopted over the years in support of the repository.

The rural county has staked its economic development on the jobs and other federal payments that would accompany the $100 billion nuclear waste site on the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site. Its hopes fell flat when President Barack Obama, urged by Reid, terminated the program in 2009.

Since then, Nye officials have been a regular presence at industry gatherings and at Capitol Hill hearings on nuclear waste, and testified several times before the commission that Obama created to recommend new strategies for nuclear waste disposal.

While not commenting on whether Yucca Mountain might be safe for nuclear waste, the commission in its report in January recommended the DOE adopt a new "consent-based" strategy to recruit possible hosts for nuclear facilities.

In that vein, Eastley told Chu that "Nye County, Nevada, hereby provides notice to you, the Secretary of Energy, that we consent to host the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain."

Nye County's offer may remain just that -- an offer, according to Joe Strolin, planning adviser to the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, which oversees state activities on nuclear waste.

Strolin said Nevada's official opposition has not changed, Strolin said, and without state consent, Yucca Mountain is not going to happen.

The county's overturn "means nothing," Strolin said. "It's just Nye County being Nye County. They have supported the Yucca project for years, but they would still have to get the state on board."

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