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Hearing in D.C. Wednesday on Restarting Yucca Mountain N-Waste Project

The idea of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain is widely opposed in Nevada, but is nonetheless being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. (Taliesin/morguefile)
The idea of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain is widely opposed in Nevada, but is nonetheless being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. (Taliesin/morguefile)
April 25, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The proposal to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, outside Las Vegas, may be getting new life at a hearing tomorrow before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on Environment.

President Trump recently proposed $120 million to restart the licensing process in an effort to find a permanent storage facility for radioactive waste.

Judy Treichel, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, says many stakeholders in Nevada have been fighting the project for 30 years because the site is riven by fault lines and is only 100 miles from Las Vegas.

"You can't really do something like this if you're going to have the public fighting you every inch of the way," she said. "You've got to have a population that agrees that what you're doing is the right thing to do and they're willing to work with the project."

Treichel says the feds would have to invoke the Commerce clause to overrule the state's water engineers, who have refused to grant a permit to siphon off groundwater.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, both of Nevada's senators and three of its four members of Congress oppose the Yucca Mountain project.

Congressman Ruben Kihuen, who will testify at the hearing, says Nevada is too dependent on tourism to risk transporting nuclear waste through its population centers.

"All it takes is one accident to happen, which would have a significant impact on our economy," he said.

Geoffrey Fettus, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says states don't have the power to approve or deny the siting of a nuclear facility, so getting that local buy-in is impossible. He thinks Congress needs to end the Atomic Energy Act's exemptions from environmental laws.

"Right now, our hazardous-waste and clean-water laws do not have full authority over radioactivity and nuclear-waste facilities," Fettus stated. "So EPA and states like Nevada cannot assert direct regulatory authority. So until we get that process right, we're not even to the starting gun."

Much of the country's existing nuclear waste is being stored near the nuclear power plants in facilities that were not meant for long-term storage.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV