U.S. Sen. Dean Heller Calls On Congress To Continue Defunding Of Yucca Mountain

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., today sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations asking them to continue defunding the proposed high level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Heller’s letter comes just days after some House Republicans indicated they want to allocate $25 million to revive the Yucca Mountain project.

Yucca Mountain tunnel. / Photo by Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons.

Both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations are currently preparing their Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

“As you prepare your Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I am writing to request that you honor the wishes of the state of Nevada, continue to defund the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and prioritize funding that seeks alternatives to Yucca Mountain for the long-term storage of our nation’s nuclear waste,” Heller said in his letter.

Heller, who is facing a challenge in his Senate election bid from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said he has consistently opposed making Nevada the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Berkley has long opposed the dump as well.

“While we need to responsibly develop all of our nation’s energy resources, including nuclear energy, the irresponsible history of Yucca Mountain undermines the integrity of the project,” Heller said in his letter. “Nevadans have a right to be safe in their own backyards, and given the historically politicized nature of this project, I don’t trust the federal government to appropriately manage Yucca Mountain.”

The move by some House Republicans to restart funding for Yucca Mountain reflects concerns expressed by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who came in for some criticism for suggesting on his House website earlier this year that Yucca Mountain was not dead because it comes up for discussion in the House on a regular basis.

“While I understand it’s great politics for some of my predecessors to say it’s dead, and all that other sort of stuff, and more power to them, you can’t sit here and listen to those guys talk on the floor every week and walk back and tell Nevadans that you think it’s dead too, OK?” he said in February.

A statement on Amodei’s congressional website says in part: “Let me be clear, I do not believe Yucca Mountain should become a simple dumping site for the nation’s nuclear waste. I believe the Administration and Department of Energy (DOE) should keep funding for the project, while Congress works with the DOE to make the location a bastion of nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu in March making it clear that he does not support any type of nuclear waste disposal or interim storage at Yucca Mountain. Sandoval’s letter was in response to the Nye County Commission expressing its support for a Yucca Mountain repository.

The project has been declared dead by some elected officials after President Obama zeroed out funding for it in 2010. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also worked successfully to defund the project.

A special bipartisan commission is now calling for a new, “consent oriented” approach to find a suitable location for the disposal of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste.