U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that Yucca Mountain should be the place to store the nation’s high-level nuclear waste in the absence of a better alternative.
The GOP presidential candidate from Florida visited with the Review-Journal editorial board Friday. He was on the second of three days of campaign events in Southern Nevada.
Rubio is among a field of 15 candidates hoping to win the GOP nomination in 2016. Nevada voters will play a key role in the election because the state’s two sets of caucuses in February will be the first in the West.
Nevada officials have strongly opposed Yucca Mountain, and polls in recent years have shown that most state residents also oppose the proposal.
“We need to have a repository in this country for nuclear waste,” Rubio said about the repository that would be built about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. “We have multiple places in this country that are temporary and insecure facilities … that are housing radioactive material. Yucca Mountain is the site that was picked long ago and that investment’s been made.”
But he didn’t close the door on hearing suggestions about alternative sites to store the nation’s nuclear waste.
“Now what I have said is I’m open to the science that says there’s a better place,” he said. “If someone has a better idea, we’ll listen to it. But right now, the place that’s been identified and that has been invested in is Yucca Mountain.”
Rubio has come under criticism from Democrats for missing Senate business and votes while campaigning.
“I’m running for president and when you run for president you are going to miss votes,” he said, adding that many votes are “inconsequential.”
“If I’m not in Washington, it’s not because I’m on vacation,” he said. “It’s because I’m here or in South Carolina or in Iowa or in New Hampshire trying to be elected president so we can make a difference.”
Asked about the federal government’s ownership of more than 80 percent of Nevada lands, Rubio said the lands need to be opened up.
“I believe significant portions of that land need to be opened up for the private-sector to use,” he said, adding that it should be a priority.
“That number’s way too high and there’s no need for the federal government to store and hold so much federal land in inventory, much of which is not even being actively managed,” Rubio said.
Contact Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.