Heller makes request to DOE for Nevada rep on Yucca Mountain tour

WASHINGTON — A scuffle over the guest list has added a last-minute twist to plans by a group of congressmen to visit Yucca Mountain, the once-touted Nevada site for nuclear waste now fenced off and empty after being terminated by President Barack Obama.

As a half dozen lawmakers and other federal officials prepared to arrive in Las Vegas in advance of the Thursday tour, Sen. Dean Heller stepped in to urge that the state of Nevada be allowed to send along one of its consultants.

Going to the top, Heller, R-Nev., lodged his request in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“Given that many of the congressional participants are traveling thousands of miles for this fact-finding visit, it would be a shame for those representatives to not receive a comprehensive briefing while in the state,” Heller wrote to Moniz on Tuesday.

Heller acted after Robert Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects was told this week there was no more room on the tour. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., tour leader and chairman of the House environment and the economy subcommittee, said the visit to be conducted by Energy Department personnel “was fully subscribed.”

The state had proposed to send along geology consultant Steve Frishman, a member of a Nevada technical and legal team that has built evidence it says shows that Yucca Mountain would be unsafe to store highly radioactive waste.

“It is my hope the department could accommodate one more participant who will serve a critical role in providing the visitors the State of Nevada’s perspective on the flaws with a proposed nuclear waste repository,” Heller told Moniz.

The last-minute tangle injected a new dose of Yucca Mountain politics on the eve of the tour. Six lawmakers including Reps. Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei, both R-Nev., were scheduled to make the first publicized trip to Yucca Mountain by a congressional delegation since 2011.

The Obama administration terminated the Yucca project in 2010. Shimkus, a leading advocate of reviving the program, has said he was hopeful the trip would showcase the Nevada site after it received a promising safety review in recently completed studies by the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Yucca opponents charged the trip was designed more for political optics than for scientific inquiry, including a decision to exclude Frishman, a critic of the program. At the same time, pro-Yucca members of the local Nye County Commission who inquired about tagging along said they also were told they could not be accommodated.

While the Department of Energy arranged details of the tour, officials said it is customary for congressional sponsors to set the guest list.

DOE spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy said the department “has accommodated all requests for participants made by the subcommittee, including members of Congress, congressional and committee staff, and press.

“The department has not received a request from the subcommittee to include a participant representing the state of Nevada,” McCarthy said, adding DOE would attempt to make room for anyone else sent its way by the House panel.

About 30 people are expected on the tour, but it remained unclear whether Frishman would be added. When a Shimkus-led delegation last visited Yucca Mountain in 2011, Frishman was not on the tour.

Jordan Haverly, a spokesman for Shimkus, said the congressman was willing to meet with Frishman “as we move forward.”

“I think it’s important to note that DOE’s itinerary for the tour was carefully planned for the bipartisan delegation’s short visit, taking into consideration the members’ different arrival/departure times and travel to the remote site,” Haverly said in an email.

As part of the tour, DOE officials plan to helm a small group of ATVs to drive lawmakers into the 5-mile long exploratory tunnel that remains the defining feature of the Yucca site. The project once envisioned placing thousands of canisters of high-level nuclear waste into tunnel alcoves where they eventually would be buried.

Shimkus has said he is preparing new legislation to move Yucca Mountain forward and hoped to have it ready for votes by the summer.

In an interview with an Illinois newspaper published Wednesday as he departed for Nevada, Shimkus said he was encouraged by signs that Yucca Mountain might be getting a fresh look in the state.

“There’s an internal debate going on in the state of Nevada, and that’s promising,” he told the Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette.

With chief Yucca Mountain foe Sen Harry Reid preparing to retire, “what’s happening now in Nevada is that there’s a discussion occurring by some elected officials — not a lot of them, because they’re afraid, most people who want to run statewide are still anti (Yucca Mountain) — but there are a few people at least talking about it,” Shimkus said.

One of those is Hardy, who wrote an opinion article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last month calling for an “honest discussion” with the federal government over Yucca Mountain, including a gauge of what benefits the state might obtain if the site were proved safe.

Hardy, in Carson City on Wednesday to make a scheduled address to the Legislature, was scheduled to meet with Halstead to discuss Yucca Mountain, the congressman’s office confirmed.

With Reid leaving, Heller has said he is prepared to take the reins as the leading voice in Congress against Yucca Mountain.

“Just like Chairman Shimkus doesn’t want the nuclear waste produced in Illinois sitting at power plants in that state, the citizens of Nevada are not interested in having the burden of hosting nuclear waste from Illinois, or any other state for that matter, in the Silver State,” Heller spokesman Neal Patel said.

“The people of Nevada refuse to allow nuclear waste to be stored in the state, especially since it does not have a nuclear plant of its own.”

Contact Review-Journal Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@reviewjournal.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece. (@FlightAlerts_)
Park Service plans ahead for lower lake levels
National Park Service releases new plans to maintain access to the water as Lake Mead continues to shrink.
Women claim abuse at Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility
Current and ex-inmates, including Merry West, are suing Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility, claiming abuse and inadequate medical care. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Butte County Sheriff's Office Body Cam Footage
Bodycam video from Butte County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Parmley, who was in Paradise November 8 helping with evacuations. (Butte County Sheriff's Office)
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 106
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 160, near Mt. Potosi Road, in Clark County as part of a $59 million, 6-mile-long highway widening project that began this summer. (Nevada Department of Transportation)
Car crashes into Papa Murphy's Pizza shop
A driver crashed a car into a western Las Vegas Valley pizza shop on Tuesday morning, police said. (Joe Stanhibel/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Low-lake-level pumping station nears completion
Barnard Construction and the Southern Nevada Water Authority give one last tour before the new low-lake-level pumping station is activated.
Trailer: Valley of Fires
Sultan’s Playroom from Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada’s Scott Rosenzweig talks about granting Sultan Bouras Souissi’s wish, and what went into building it. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jim Marsh brings historic replica of rural church to Amargosa Valley
Jim Marsh talks during the opening of the Chapel at Longstreet, a replica of an 1874 Catholic church built in the mining town of Belmont, Nev., at Marsh's Longstreet Casino in Amargosa Valley, Nev. Chase Stevens/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like