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3 Nevada lawmakers want to erase funding for Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON — Three congressional Democrats from Nevada are backing an amendment to a House spending bill that would eliminate $120 million in funding to restart the licensing process for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., introduced the amendment one day after a Senate appropriations subcommittee reported out its version of the spending bill for energy and water development that did not include the funding sought by the Trump administration.

The full House will take up its version of the spending bill next week. Kihuen has filed his amendment to change the House bill.

“We have been down this road before, and as I have said many times, Yucca Mountain is not a dumping ground for nuclear waste,” Kihuen said.

The amendment is considered a long shot in the House, which has voted in the past, and across partisan lines, in support of the Nevada site.

The Kihuen amendment is backed by Democrats Rep. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Dina Titus.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., as well as Nye and surrounding Nevada counties, support restarting the Department of Energy’s licensing process to determine whether Yucca Mountain is a viable storage site.

Nevada’s two senators, Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, and Gov. Brian Sandoval are opposed to restarting the licensing process that began in 2008 and ended in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the site for nuclear waste from the nation’s energy generating plants in 1987. Since then, the federal government has spent $15 billion to study and develop the site.

President Donald Trump included $120 million to revive the Yucca Mountain project in his spending blueprint for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1. Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified before House and Senate committees, calling it a “moral” imperative to restart Yucca Mountain.

The Senate appropriations subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, did not include the funding.

Feinstein, in hearings, questioned the safety of the site. Alexander said he favored including Yucca Mountain as part of the solution to the growing stockpile of nuclear waste, but he also wants a more robust interim storage solution.

“The Senate’s decision to exclude funding for Yucca Mountain in its appropriations bill is a move in the right direction, but our fight is certainly far from over,” Rosen said.

Any differences between the House and Senate legislation would be ironed out in a conference committee, which would craft a final spending bill to be approved by both chambers.

Sandoval has vowed to spend state funds to fight efforts to revive the project, and opponents of the Yucca Mountain repository quickly seized on the fact that the site sits near a fault line. Just this week an earthquake registering 4.1 magnitude occurred 33 miles from Yucca Mountain.

“If Republicans won’t listen to us they should listen to the warning signs from Mother Nature and Human Nature,” Titus said.

She said the earthquake highlights one of the dangers “of this unworkable and unsafe project that Trump, Perry and the GOP want to shove down our throats.”

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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