House allocates money for controversial Yucca Mountain waste site

The Energy and Water funding bill, which was approved May by the full House of Representatives, provides $150 million to the U.S. Department of Energy and $25 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to support Yucca Mountain licensing activities.

The bill also prohibits DOE from taking action to permanently shut down the project, which the Obama Administration has said it wants to do after years of entrenched opposition from officials in and around Nevada, the proposed site for this permanent repository for the waste from the nation’s commercial nuclear power reactors.

The House also defeated amendments to the bill seeking to strip funding needed to compete Yucca Mountain’s licensing. Yucca Mountain has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support. In recent years, the House has voted 3-1, including the majority of both parties, in favor of bolstering funding for the project, said a May 1 statement from the Republican majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In an op-ed published recently in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., noted the NRC’s objective scientific conclusions that Yucca Mountain would be a safe long-term repository. As the licensing process continues, Shimkus is urging Nevada to become a willing partner in support of the repository, which he said is empirically safe and would bring much-needed jobs and revenue to the area. “As the debate moves forward, it’s clear that science can no longer be used to justify opposition to the project,” wrote Shimkus. “We need to complete the licensing process at the NRC to determine, after 30 years and $15 billion, whether Yucca Mountain can serve as a valuable national asset.” 

Shimkus noted that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Nevada Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan recently co-signed an op-ed dismissing the scientific evidence in support of the Yucca Mountain Project (“Unsafe site won’t ever be safe for nuclear waste,” April 12 Review-Journal).

Shimkus wrote: “Rather than show Yucca Mountain is unworkable, the evolution in siting criteria has actually improved upon the original designs for the project. Specific ‘engineering fixes,’ as Gov. Sandoval derides them, reduced the already negligible risk associated with permanent geologic storage — the world standard in nuclear waste management — well beyond the original safety assessment.”

He added: “The NRC is still working to complete an additional environmental impact study and, once resumed, adjudication of the licensing process will take several years. As the debate moves forward, it’s clear that science can no longer be used to justify opposition to the project.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.