WASHINGTON — Legislation that would require the federal government to receive consent from state, local and tribal entities before constructing a permanent repository for nuclear waste was filed in the House on Tuesday by Democrat Dina Titus of Nevada.
Companion legislation was filed in the Senate by Catherine Cortez Masto, with support from Sen. Jacky Rosen, both Nevada Democrats.
Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, urged Congress to pass the bills and provide a workable alternative to storing nuclear waste in Nevada.
Titus has filed the bill in each session of Congress to prevent a restart of the process to review an application by the Department of Energy to receive a license to build a repository at Yucca Mountain, northwest of Las Vegas.
The legislation has never been approved, despite the failure of the federal government to accept the waste and store it as required by law.
President Joe Biden has stated his opposition to Yucca Mountain and the need for another solution.
Former President Donald Trump sought to restart the licensing process during his first three years in office, before opposing it last year when he was seeking re-election and courting Nevada, a swing state and key to a presidential victory.
“No state or community should have a nuclear waste dump forced upon its residents,” said Titus, who was joined by co-sponsors Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, both Nevada Democrats.
“After years of attempts by the federal government to revitalize this dangerous project, we finally have allies in the Oval Office and at the Department of Energy,” Titus said.
Cortez Masto said that for too long “the voices of our state, local and tribal governments in Nevada have been silenced by a broken process.”
“This legislation ensures that states like Nevada have a seat at the table when a permanent nuclear repository is proposed in their backyards,” Cortez Masto said.
The senator also received assurances from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, during a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that the administration would oppose a repository at Yucca Mountain due to local opposition.
Although the legislation has never been approved by Congress, it has drawn bipartisan support, including from past Nevada governors including Brian Sandoval, a Republican.
Sisolak, a Democrat, urged Congress to take up the consent-based siting bills as a workable path forward and “abandon the failed Yucca Mountain Project.”
Congress in 1987 designated Yucca Mountain as the sole site to permanently store nuclear waste from power plants and Navy ships. After three decades, Congress has kept the law on the books as it struggles with a stalemate over nuclear waste disposal.
Proponents of Yucca Mountain and lawmakers from states that produce electricity with nuclear power plants have argued the need to open the site and reduce stockpiles of waste scattered throughout the country.
The federal government is reviewing plans to store some waste in interim sites in New Mexico and Texas, although those proposals have also been met by local opposition.
Nevada has no nuclear power plants and has opposed the transportation and storage of waste in the state, despite congressional action in the 1980s.
“The past 34 years of failure have demonstrated that a forced nuclear waste siting process cannot work in our system of government,” Sisolak said.