Legislative Panel Gets Update On Yucca Mountain, Takes No Action To Deviate From Long-Term Opposition To Project

CARSON CITY – The potential viability of Yucca Mountain as a long-term repository for nuclear waste was the focus of yet another discussion in Nevada today as lawmakers serving on the Legislative Committee on High-Level Radioactive Waste heard status reports on the now defunded project.

The committee also heard testimony from members of the public, as well as former Gov. Richard Bryan, who serves as the chairman of the Nevada Commission for Nuclear Projects, on why state officials should continue to oppose efforts to revive the proposed dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Former Gov. Richard Bryan.

Bryan told the panel he has been working on the Yucca Mountain issue for 30 years, and that Nevada is in the best position ever to end the project once and for all. He said Nevadans who advocate using the site as a reprocessing center for nuclear waste are misguided, calling the idea a “very perilous course to pursue.”

A group called Nevadans for Carbon Free Energy has advocated that Yucca Mountain be used as a temporary nuclear waste storage site with a research center to explore reprocessing.

“The argument that is advanced by well-intentioned Nevadans with whom I strongly disagree is that somehow there is a cornucopia of riches; that somehow if we would accept this high level nuclear waste that there is money available to solve the legitimate fiscal problems that we have in this state,” Bryan said. “May I suggest there is absolutely no evidence, not a scintilla of evidence, to suggest that.

“We’re literally on the brink of a victory,” he told the panel. “No funding is available. So I do think that the state’s position today is better than at any time since the enactment of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also sent a letter to the panel voicing his continued opposition to a nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain.

“Suggestions by Nye County, Lincoln County, and others who advocate the acceptance of benefits in exchange for going along with the importation of high-level nuclear waste into Nevada for storage, disposal, reprocessing or any other activity would have the state capitulate on this issue at a time when Nevada is on the verge of prevailing, once and for all, in stopping the Yucca Mountain,” he said in the letter.

But not all of the speakers at the meeting, where panel Chairman Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, took no action on the Yucca Mountain project, were supportive of the state’s current policy.

Mike Baughman, representing Lincoln County and the city of Caliente, argued that the U.S. Department of Energy needs to develop a compensation scheme for a state and/or local government that might accept the repository. Such compensation would have to amount to $2 billion to $2.5 billion to generate serious interest, he said.

“Ethically we cannot defer this to the next generation again,” he said. “I think as we heard today, it’s dead; it’s very nearly dead; we’re there; the final nail is ready to go in the coffin. Just like nuclear waste, this is probably a 10,000-year endeavor. It just doesn’t go away. And if you are watching the Congress, if you are watching the courts, the Yucca Mountain project is not dead.”

Nevada has never had a dialogue about compensation or economic benefits for accepting the repository, Baughman said. That is because the state has not asked, he said.

But there have been economic benefits when work was under way on the project, he said.

Baughman also suggested that the committee write a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission encouraging it to complete the licensing process for Yucca Mountain.

“We should not be afraid in Nevada of having the licensing proceeding completed, because getting the licensing proceeding completed and getting a license granted is a long way from getting a repository built and operating in the state of Nevada,” he said.

-

Audio clips:

Former Gov. Richard Bryan says Nevada is close to ending Yucca for good:

082112Bryan1 :11 Act in 1982.”

Bryan says there is no evidence to suggest that Nevada would get money for taking the waste:

082112Bryan2 :25 to suggest that.”

Mike Baughman, representing Lincoln County and the city of Caliente, says Yucca is not dead and Nevada needs to remain engaged:

082112Baughman1 :17 is not dead.”

Baughman says Nevada should ask that the licensing process continue:

082112Baughman2 :17 state of Nevada.”