weather icon Clear

Energy secretary grilled over request for funds to revive Yucca Mountain

Updated March 20, 2018 - 4:07 pm

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday where he laid out his department’s $30 billion budget that includes $120 million to revive licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository plus implement interim storage at other sites.

“We must move ahead in fulfilling the federal government’s responsibility to dispose of the nation’s nuclear waste,” Perry told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Perry said $120 million in the budget would go to addressing nuclear waste. He said there was $110 million to restart the licensing of Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and $10 million to implement an interim storage program.

The secretary said interim and permanent sites were immediately needed to accept wastes generated at 39 nuclear-power plants across the country.

The budget is for fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1. The amount is far less than that appropriated a decade ago when the Yucca Mountain project and licensing was underway.

But transparency in the Department of Energy’s spending of carryover funds since the Yucca Mountain licensing process was suspended in 2011 drew questions from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., a member of the committee.

She wants a full accounting of the $42 million that was left in federal accounts since the process ended, and a recent estimate that only $10 million was available to spend on the process.

Cortez Masto asked Perry to provide an accounting in two weeks.

“I’ll review it and give as timely a response as soon as possible,” Perry told Cortez Masto.

The Nevada senator also grilled the secretary on plans to move ahead with budget requests when Perry admitted a final design for the Yucca Mountain facility does not exist, or whether certain technology and materials to be used in the application 10 years ago would remain a viable option.

“Congress funds a number of things without having a final plan done,” Perry said. “This is nothing out of the ordinary.”

“I disagree,” Cortez Masto shot back. “I’m sitting here in Congress and I want a final plan. I want to know how the money is being spent. I want an analysis, I want an assessment. I think it’s irresponsible not to ask those questions.”

Congress designated Yucca Mountain in 1987 as the site for storage of nuclear waste produced by power plants. The failure of the government to adequately store the growing backlog of waste is cited as a security threat.

The state of Nevada overwhelmingly opposes the Yucca Mountain site, with the exception of rural counties who see development of a facility as an economic boon, and other proponents who say the storage could position the state for a growing reprocessing industry.

The Trump administration sought similar funds last year for nuclear waste storage. The House increased the figure, while Senate appropriators zeroed out funding in their spending bill.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the committee chairwoman, entered into the record a request from Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., urging lawmakers not to approve the Trump administration request for funds for development at Yucca Mountain without consent from the governor, local communities and native tribes.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has remained an ardent opponent of Yucca Mountain and has directed state efforts to fight the project through the licensing process and other means.

Companies in West Texas and New Mexico have submitted paperwork with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to seek a license for interim storage of nuclear material in those states.

But even with interim sites approved, the growing stockpile of waste across the country will require a permanent repository that can handle in excessive 75,000 metric tons, experts told the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year.

Legislation in the House would increase storage capacity at Yucca Mountain, if constructed, to 110,000 metric tons of waste.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Trump aides heading to Nevada Basque Fry

Several current and former aides to President Donald Trump are headed to the annual Basque Fry, an event sponsored by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.