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Sandoval says Nevada will fight any bid to revive Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said he isn’t going to abandon his longstanding opposition to creation of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, whether or not President-elect Donald Trump or Congress renew efforts to entomb radioactive materials at the site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Sandoval said Monday he has not yet had a conversation with Trump and does not know his position on Yucca Mountain.

“It won’t change my position on Yucca Mountain,” Sandoval said. “As far as I am concerned the state will continue to aggressively oppose the siting of storage of high-level nuclear waste there.”

The Republican governor’s comments came as Bloomberg News quoted two unidentified people familiar with Trump’s transition planning as saying that efforts to revive the project are actively being discussed. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the discussions were being fueled by growing pressure to find a permanent home for more than 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste currently being stored at nuclear power plants around the country and the impending retirement of the project’s most ardent foe, Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid.

Asked how the state would respond to any effort to move forward, Sandoval said he will take a wait-and-see approach for now.

“Right now I don’t know what the president-elect’s position is on Yucca Mountain. Until I see what action, if any, that the Congress will take, if it does then we will act accordingly.”

Additionally, a Wall Street Journal editorial this week urged Trump to revive the Yucca Mountain repository. “A pair of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings have since rebuked the (Obama) Administration for violating the law in relation to Yucca, and in 2014 a government study found that the Yucca design for waste is environmentally safe. The U.S. still needs a solution for nuclear waste that is piling up at sites around the country,” the editorial said.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said in a statement that Trump and Republicans in Congress “must understand that Yucca Mountain is a boondoggle of epic proportions. It will cost taxpayers billions of dollars to complete and require years of construction and implementation.

“If it is ever finished, the industry will haul nuclear waste across nearly every congressional district in the country. With my new colleagues in Congress, I will continue to fight this project that is based on spurious science and bad politics.”

The Sierra Club and others criticized Trump’s only known comment on Yucca Mountain in a visit to Las Vegas in early October. When asked about the project then, Trump said: “I will tell you I’m going to take a look at it because so many people here are talking about it. I’ll take a look at it, and the next time you interview me, I’ll have an answer.”

The state Board of Examiners in July approved $2.5 million for Nevada to continue fighting the proposed high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. The contract with the Virginia legal firm Egan &Associates increased the maximum amount of the state’s bill to $7.5 million and extended it through Sept. 30, 2017.

The contract extension came after Congress held another hearing on Yucca Mountain despite the project being declared dead by Reid, the Senate Democratic leader. Reid is leaving office when his term ends, and the Senate is in Republican control, as is the House.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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