Posts Tagged ‘Yucca Mountain’

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

By Sean Whaley | 5:16 pm August 21st, 2012

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.”

Sen. Harry Reid Calls Appeals Court Decision On Yucca Mountain ‘A Good Day For Nevada’

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 10:50 am August 3rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A decision today by a federal appeals court to temporarily decline to require the restart the licensing process at Yucca Mountain was calleda good day for Nevada and the entire country,” by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has held in abeyance the case challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) termination of Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid said the court has temporarily declined to grant petitioners’ request that the court direct the NRC to act on the Bush Administration-era license application to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The Obama Administration has terminated the Yucca Mountain Project, requested permission to withdraw the license application from the NRC, and is working to develop and implement a better consent-based nuclear waste policy, he said in a statement.

“The court has declined to compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue licensing work on Yucca Mountain against the will of Congress and the Administration,” Reid said.

“The Nuclear Waste Policy Act has been a miserable failure because 25 years ago Congress chose to undermine the spirit of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and allowed our government to engage in the brutalization of science,” he said. “That is how we got Yucca Mountain.

“Today, President Obama, his Administration and key members of Congress from both parties are working hard to develop a nuclear waste management policy firmly grounded in the principal that before pursuing a nuclear waste storage site, the government must obtain the express consent and agreement of the local community, the governor, and any affected Indian tribe,” Reid said.

“I am confident that in the coming months and years, we will craft a nuclear waste policy that keeps Americans safe and secure and restores trust that the government will not turn a deaf ear to the communities asked to undertake the burden of storing the nuclear energy industry’s toxic waste.”

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

By Sean Whaley | 1:43 pm April 24th, 2012

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.

Gov. Sandoval Says Nevada Does Not Want Nuclear Waste, But New Poll Shows Support For Research Facility

By Sean Whaley | 3:15 pm March 12th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today making it clear that he does not support any type of nuclear waste disposal or interim storage at Yucca Mountain.

“There should be no uncertainty or misunderstanding of my position with regard to an interim spent fuel storage site or repository site in Nevada; the state of Nevada does not support the location of any such site within the state and will oppose any attempt to either resurrect the defunct Yucca Mountain project or locate an interim storage facility at Yucca or elsewhere in Nevada,” Sandoval said.

Aerial view of the crest of Yucca Mountain / U.S. Department of Energy photo.

“While I am cognizant of the letter sent to you last week from Nye County expressing support for a Yucca Mountain repository, Nye County does not and cannot speak for the state of Nevada,” he said.

Sandoval’s letter is in response to DOE’s plan to conduct a review of the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future released earlier this year. Those recommendations include a “consent-based” approach to addressing the country’s high level radioactive waste disposal challenge that would require agreement from a potential host state before a disposal facility could be built.

Sandoval’s letter comes just as a new poll commissioned by Nevadans 4 Carbon Free Energy shows support for Yucca Mountain as a research park for the study of reprocessing nuclear spent fuel.

The poll of 500 likely Nevada voters, taken in late February by Public Opinion Strategies, showed 62 percent in support of the research park versus 34 percent who said Yucca Mountain should be closed entirely.

The question posed was whether respondents would prefer to: “Open Yucca Mountain for the study and potential reprocessing of nuclear waste into usable energy because of the jobs and money such a project would bring to the state . . .”

Or: “Close Yucca Mountain altogether to help protect Nevada’s environment.”

“UNR, UNLV, and many national labs around the country are conducting research on how to utilize innovative technologies now available to reprocess spent fuel, so bringing them all together to develop the best technology for commercial reprocessing makes sense,” said Gene Humphrey, the head of Nevadans 4 Carbon Free Energy (NV4CFE), a non-profit organization that supports building the research park. “Since several national laboratories are already doing work at the Nevada Test Site, it seems like the logical location to continue the legacy of nuclear exploration. But this project could generate a new form of clean energy, establish new export industries and create thousands of jobs for Nevadans.”

Recently Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said Yucca Mountain is not dead because members of Congress bring it up on a regular basis.

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.”

Former Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan Calls Rep. Mark Amodei’s Remarks On Yucca Mountain “Unfortunate”

By Sean Whaley | 4:37 pm February 16th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan today described Rep. Mark Amodei’s recent comments about Yucca Mountain not being dead as a site to dispose of the nation’s nuclear waste was as “unfortunate.”

“The great majority of Nevadans, dating back more than 30 years ago when I was governor, have taken a position that Yucca Mountain threatens the health and safety of Nevadans,” Bryan said in an interview with Sam Shad on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. “The issue was politicized in terms of its site location and there are a number of scientific issues that should give every Nevadan cause for concern.”

Gov. Richard Bryan.

Bryan was responding to a statement from Amodei, R-Nev., that says in part: “While some of my colleagues in the delegation have successfully managed to slow the project through the congressional appropriations process, I do not believe it is a ‘dead’ issue and think it is more likely the repository will eventually come to fruition through a sound scientific process over time.”

Amodei’s statement also 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.”

Amodei was elected to the 2nd Congressional District seat in a special election in September 2011.

Bryan said the Obama Administration has indicated that it will not move forward with Yucca Mountain, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has successfully worked to defund the project, and 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.

As a result, Yucca Mountain will not move forward as a repository, he said.

“And I think it is unfortunate that Nevadans, both Democrat and Republican alike, would break ranks at this key moment when in my opinion, Sam, we are literally on the threshold of a victory that the great majority of Nevadans have sought for a third of a century,” Bryan said.

Amodei said he does not believe Yucca Mountain is dead because it comes up as a topic of conversation in the House all the time.

“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.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Googling nuclear waste or Yucca Mountain in the congressional record provides all the proof anyone needs the project remains alive, he said.

Amodei also cited the final report from the Blue Ribbon Commission On America’s Nuclear Future, which found that the Obama decision to halt work on Yucca Mountain is evidence of a nuclear waste management policy that has been “troubled for decades and has now reached an impasse.” Impasse does not mean dead and the report says the impasse cannot continue, he said.

“While nobody wants a nuclear landfill in Nevada, we probably ought to at least talk about it,” Amodei said. “Well if that is breaking ranks, then yes I did.”

Bryan also dismissed any suggestion that funding would flow to Nevada if it accepted the Yucca Mountain project.

“That absolutely is utterly false,” he said. “There has never been any money promised us in terms of real money out there. The industry itself has never offered anything and nor has the federal government. And I guess I would say that even if some money were offered, in my view this is a question of health and safety.

“And when you press those folks who make those assertions, tell us where,” Bryan said. “Show us. Who is offering the money; when, and where, and how much. And Sam, I would respectfully suggest that these misguided Nevadans can’t come up with an answer.”

Bryan, a Democrat who was elected governor in 1982 and 1986 and then to the U.S. Senate in 1988 where he served two terms, is now a member of the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm. Bryan fought against the Yucca Mountain project during his time in public office and continues to speak out against it.


Audio clips:

Gov. Richard Bryan calls Rep. Mark Amodei’s comments about Yucca Mountain “unfortunate”:

021612Bryan1 :22 cause for concern.”

Bryan says Nevada is on the threshold of a victory on Yucca Mountain:

021612Bryan2 :16 of a century.”

Bryan says no money has been promised Nevada for accepting Yucca Mountain:

021612Bryan3 :27 health and safety.”

Bryan says those saying there is money available should be specific:

021612Bryan4 :14 with an answer.”

Rep. Mark Amodei says he sees evidence weekly in the House that Yucca Mountain is not dead:

021612Amodei1 :18 dead too, OK?”

Amodei says if seeking to talk about Yucca Mountain is breaking ranks, then yes he did:

021612Amodei2 :15 yes I did.”



In Case You Missed It: This Week in Nevada Politics

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:07 am September 15th, 2011

Here is my latest ICYMI installment with a nice round-up of snippets, blurbs and links, Dear Readers.

Presidential Race

This week, Gov. Sandoval endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for governor.

On the eve of the CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference presidential debate in Las Vegas next month, a national Democratic-aligned group will convene a summit here.

A CNN poll says the Republican Party is split right down the middle between tea party supporters and those who do not support the movement.

RNC chief Reince Priebus this week said there still time for other candidates to get in the GOP race.

2nd Congressional District

After an easy win on Tuesday, Mark Amodei took office this morning as the newest U.S. House member representing Nevada. The oath was administered by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Amodei was sworn in along with Bob Turner, a Republican from New York who won his own special election.

The Nevada House delegation seniority, per @RollCall now goes as follows: Rep. Amodei is No. 433, Rep. JoeHeck is No. 382, and Rep. Berkley is No. 147.

A spokesman for Sharron Angle says she will be watching Nevada’s newest congressman closely.

Is a special election in Washoe County in September 2011 a national bellwether? Former Nevadan and Politico reporter Molly Ball says yes, but on the morning of the election Steve Sebelius disagreed and yesterday @RalstonFlash Tweeted the following:

Hey, Harbinger 2012 Caucus, some #s for you: NV voters NOT eligible for #nv02 special represent 65% of NV electorate. Breakdown: 46%D-32%R.

Translation:  The 2nd congressional district does not represent or reflect state voter registration statistics, nor is a special election comparable to a regular/presidential year general election, so people shouldn’t read too much into Amodei’s 20-point win in the district and/or 10-point win in Washoe County.

Congressional Candidates Without Borders

State Sen. John Lee headed to D.C. this week to talk about his congressional candidacy with Sen. Harry Reid and other Democratic Party leaders.

U.S. Senate Race

The conversation continues re: Rep. Shelley Berkley’s advocacy for legislation that benefitted her husband’s medical practice (the original New York Times story is here). Jon Ralston penned a good column saying there are (at least) two ways to look at the situation.

And Berkley tells the LVRJ she now thinks she should have disclosed.


Gov. Sandoval wants to talk to Washoe and Clark Counties about their refund requests.

UNLV might go ahead with an arena project, sans taxpayer dollars.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is being asked for clarification on its recent ruling on Yucca Mountain.

Jane Ann Morrison wrote an interesting piece this week about the constitutional reasons for the “leap frogging” of Nevada’s high court judges as they take turns being Supreme Court chief.

Reid had a 20-minute Twitter town hall this week.

Yucca Mountain Is Dead Again

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:09 pm September 10th, 2011

In a long awaited ruling, the federal nuclear safety agency has said Nevada can close down Yucca Mountain once and for all. Or not.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tie vote neither upheld nor rejected a lower board’s ruling on the proposed nuclear waste repository, leaving the legal status of Yucca Mountain construction application in limbo.

The Obama administration had asked Congress to zero out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) work on Yucca as a follow up to the prior  termination of funding at the Department of Energy (DOE) project. The NRC has directed that all project casework be wrapped up by the end of the month.

Sen. Harry Reid said he is happy it is nearly over:

“Today’s decision by the NRC brings the Yucca Mountain saga closer to its final conclusion,” Reid said. “I am pleased that the commission is ready to wrap up all work on Yucca licensing by the end of this month.”

Aerial view of the crest of Yucca Mountain / U.S. Department of Energy photo

But is the nuclear waste storage project really dead? Court cases or actions by Congress and other governmental bodies may yet revive it.

A federal appeals court ruled in July that legal challenges to the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw from developing Yucca Mountain were premature and that no final decision could be made until the NRC acted.

South Carolina, Washington and other petitioners challenged the federal government’s Jan. 2010 decision to withdraw “with prejudice” the DOE application to the NRC. The states argued that withdrawal of the application violated the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act as well as the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the majority opinion for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the petitioners’ fear that the federal government might never find a place to store their nuclear waste was “not unreasonable.”

In a separate opinion, Judge Janice Rogers Brown noted that petitioners might have a valid argument in that NRC may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to act quickly enough.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a group of state utility regulators, and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm, stand in support of the petitioners and will likely be involved in future lobbying and lawsuits.

The U.S. House of Representatives had voted in July for an energy bill that contained $35 million for Yucca Mountain along with a directive that the NRC and the DOE move forward with the licensing process. A corresponding Senate bill contained no mention of Yucca, and Reid has said there won’t ever be one on his watch.

Closing down Yucca Mountain “once and for all” can happen if the DOE’s license application is denied by NRC and its decision is upheld through a final non-appealable decision rendered by a federal court, or if Congress amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the president signs the legislation.






Gov. Sandoval Appoints New Executive Director To Oversee Stalled Yucca Mountain Waste Dump Project

By Sean Whaley | 12:43 pm August 4th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today appointed Robert Halstead as executive director of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, the agency responsible for oversight of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. He will start in the job Sept. 19.

Halstead will replace Joe Strolin, who has been serving as acting director since January.

Robert Halstead will take over as executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects in September.

“Bob Halstead brings over 30 years of experience dealing with federal radioactive waste programs and activities,” Sandoval said. “His extensive, first-hand knowledge of the issues and key actors at the state, federal and local levels will make for a seamless transition in this extremely important position as we continue Nevada’s fight against bringing high-level nuclear waste to our state.”

Halstead was selected from a list of candidates submitted to the governor by the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects, as prescribed under state law.

The proposed high level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is in limbo. President Obama has declined to fund its ongoing construction and has called it dead. But South Carolina and Washington, two states that have stored nuclear waste, are suing the federal government in an effort to get the project moving forward again.

Halstead, in a phone interview Thursday from Wisconsin where he is currently located, said he believes Nevada is in the strongest position it has been in to permanently block the project since the push to build at Yucca Mountain began almost 25 years ago. This is because of the defunding of the office and the pulling of the license application, he said.

“Those two things, clearly, are a very bad thing for the people who want Yucca Mountain to go forward,” he said.

Even so, Nevada has to remain vigilant, Halstead said.

“It is wait and see,” he said. “On the one hand it would be premature for us to say that we’re off the hook. There are powerful, powerful forces that want to reopen the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding.”

Halstead said the president’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future said Friday in a draft report that the better short-term policy is to rely on a temporary storage solution. The country can continue to rely on dry storage of the waste on site, which is safe enough for the next 60 to 100 years, or develop some other consolidated interim storage site, he said.

The commission will be meeting with representatives of the western states in Denver in early September to discuss the report, which calls for a “consent-based” approach to siting future nuclear waste facilities.

“I think the biggest error with the current program is that Yucca Mountain was not only a questionable site technically, but it was clearly a site in which the state was strongly politically opposed,” Halstead said.

Halstead has served as transportation adviser to the Agency for Nuclear Projects since 1988, serving in a consulting capacity. In addition to reviewing the U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Impact Statements for Yucca Mountain and preparing contentions for the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding, he has managed studies on transportation feasibility and cost; consequences of sabotage, terrorism, and severe accidents; and risk management and impact mitigation.

Halstead has also represented Nevada in complex technical proceedings with the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; testified before congressional committees, National Academy of Sciences boards, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, the NRC Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste, Nevada legislative committees and Nevada county commissions; and advised affected individuals, community organizations, and Indian tribes.

During his career, Halstead has worked as senior policy analyst for the state of Wisconsin Radioactive Waste Board and as a consultant on nuclear waste transportation and storage for the states of Minnesota, Tennessee, and Texas.

Halstead holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has also completed required course work for a Ph.D. degree at the University of Wisconsin. He and his wife, Margaret, who is currently an executive with the International Monetary Fund, have two grown children.

Aerial view of Yucca Mountain. / Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

Audio clips:

Newly appointed Nuclear Projects Executive Director Robert Halstead says Nevada still faces powerful forces who want Yucca Mountain to go forward:

080511Halstead1 :20 Mountain licensing proceeding.”

But Halstead says the defunding of the office and pulling of the license application puts Nevada in a strong position:

080511Halstead2 :27 to be considered.”

Halstead says the biggest error with the current program was that it was pushed on Nevada despite strong political opposition:

080511Halstead3 :15 strongly politicially opposed.”



Nevada Group Seeking To Create Yucca Mountain Energy Park Seeks Amendment To Legislation

By Sean Whaley | 4:15 pm March 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – An organization that wants to see Yucca Mountain used as a temporary nuclear waste storage site with a research center to explore reprocessing has proposed an amendment to a bill in the Legislature to move its Energy Park idea forward.

In a hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 375 to create renewable energy corridors, John Dunn, one of the directors of Nevadans for Carbon Free Energy, proposed an amendment to the legislation to include nuclear energy as an option, and to change the term “renewable” energy, to “carbon-free” or “clean” energy.

The bill as written specifically excludes nuclear energy.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee, which heard the bill by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, took no immediate action on the proposed amendment or the bill itself.

Cegavske said today the committee indicated at the hearing it wants to keep the legislation as written. While putting Yucca Mountain to use as an energy related research facility is worthy of discussion, SB375 is not the vehicle for that debate, she said.

The organization presented similar testimony at a meeting of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects.

The group says Yucca Mountain is an ideal location to temporarily store spent fuel and host a research center to study reprocessing technologies for commercial application. When such technology becomes available, the fuel could be sold to re-processors or a facility could be built to do the reprocessing.

The $13 billion spent on Yucca Mountain infrastructure when it was being prepared to be a long-term disposal site for nuclear waste makes the site a good candidate for such a park, the group says.

U.S. Chamber Study Highlights National, Nevada Economic Losses Due To Stalled Energy Projects

By Sean Whaley | 12:29 pm March 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a first-of-its-kind economic study today identifying stalled energy projects – including 10 in Nevada – that are costing billions of dollars in lost gross domestic product.

The study says the delays are costing the state’s economy $66.9 billion in GDP and that 86,700 jobs a year could be created in Nevada during the construction phase of the projects.

The study estimates the potential loss of investment and jobs in the 351 proposed solar, renewable, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and transmission projects in 49 states. The dollar value is $577 billion.

“This study should serve as a wake-up call for legislative action to improve the permitting process,” said William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs during today’s unveiling of Project Denied: The Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects.

The study by TeleNomic Research was conducted by Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute, and Joseph Fuhr, professor of economics at Widener University and senior fellow at the American Consumer Institute.

It was based on an initial chamber review as of March 2010 of all the energy projects being sought by developers that could not get permits, called “Project No Project.”

“These are projects that would create jobs in Nevada and give a much-needed boost to the state’s economy, but with every day that passes, the more expensive the projects become,” Kovacs said. “In most cases, if the projects are substantially delayed they won’t be built.”

The 10 projects identified in Nevada include the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which has been abandoned by the Obama Administration, although several states are challenging that decision in federal court.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports the project.

Four of the stalled projects identified in Nevada are alternative energy projects, including the Duke Energy Wind Project at Searchlight, the New Comstock Wind Energy Project, the Crescent Dunes Solar Project, and the Virginia Peak Wind Project.

Four others are coal projects and one is a transmission line.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has in the past stated his opposition to the development of coal-fired energy plants in Nevada.

Pociask said not all of the 351 projects evaluated in his study are probably worthy of being built, nor would anyone expect them all to be constructed.

But even if just the top project in each state was allowed to go forward, the economic value would be significant, he said.

The permitting process used to approve these energy projects needs to be streamlined, Pociask said.

“What we need to have is a fair review process,” he said.

The report comes out at the same time Nevada officials are seeking help from federal officials to clear the way for permits to be approved so mining companies can expand and hire more workers. Gov. Brian Sandoval, who met with officials on a recent trip to Washington, DC, said there are several permits awaiting action that mining officials have told him could lead to the creation of 1,000 high-paying jobs in rural Nevada.

“The concern for me was that there are several permits that are pending before the BLM that have been there for years,” he said.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, introduced a resolution urging the federal government and other governmental entities to expedite and streamline the requirements for conducting mining operations in Nevada.

Among the Nevada projects highlighted in the chamber study is NV Energy’s proposal to upgrade an existing line to a 20-wire, 230-kilovolt line to help meet projected energy needs for the Las Vegas Valley.

The project drew opposition from Henderson residents, who said that their lifestyle was threatened by the proposed transmission line. After several hearings, the Henderson Planning Commission voted in June 2009 unanimously to deny NV Energy’s proposal.

The route preferred by the commission would have added $19.5 million to the total project cost, which NV Energy had rejected. NV Energy litigated the matter, and in May 2010 the Clark County District Court upheld the Henderson Planning Commission’s rejection of the project.

“In going through the study, the results were simply startling,” said Peter Morici, former chief economist at the International Trade Commission, and the study’s peer reviewer. “We anticipated the impact all the projects collectively would have on jobs and the economy. But the real surprise was how positively Nevada could be affected if it moved forward on just two projects.”

Kovacs said in the report that these energy projects, “are being stalled, stopped, or outright killed nationwide due to ‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents of development.”

Audio clips:

U.S. Chamber official William Kovacs says the study reviews projects sought by developers that could not get permits:

031011Kovacs1 :20 get a permit.”

Kovacs says the longer the projects are delayed, the more likely they won’t go forward:

031011Kovacs2 :16 ever moving forward.”

Chamber study author Steve Pociask says not all of the 351 projects are viable:

031011Pociask1 :19 terms of jobs.”

Pociask says the initial investment value of the projects was $577 billion:

031011Pociask2 :16 up these projects.”

Federal Appeals Court Allows Yucca Licensing Dispute To Move Forward

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:12 pm December 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A federal appeals court today lifted a stay on cases challenging the U.S. Department of Energy’s authority to withdraw its licensing application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

The lifting of the stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, also includes an expedited briefing schedule to consider arguments by the states of Washington, South Carolina and others challenging the Energy Department’s intent to stop the licensing process.

The lifting of the stay comes even though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not released the results of its vote on the DOE licensing issue, said Bruce Breslow, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

The commission has voted on whether DOE can withdraw its license but has not disclosed the results of the vote, Breslow said. If the commission rules the DOE cannot withdraw its license application, then the court cases would be moot, he said.

The commission is named in the federal lawsuits as well and has until Jan. 3 to respond, Breslow said.

Regardless of how the legal dispute over Yucca Mountain plays out, President Obama has proposed no funding for the licensing process, he said. It will be up to Congress to decide whether to fund the licensing effort to move the Yucca Mountain project forward should the DOE be required to proceed with licensing, Breslow said.

Work Stoppage On Yucca Mountain Review Not The End Of Nuclear Waste Project, State Official Says

By Sean Whaley | 11:14 am October 12th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada remains in limbo over the status of Yucca Mountain as a potential repository for the nation’s nuclear waste even with a work stoppage on the project review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission due to funding limitations, a state official says.

Bruce Breslow, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said ultimately it will be the courts and Congress who will decide whether the licensing process for Yucca Mountain moves forward.

“Well I think the state would be happy about it if things actually finally led to a conclusion, but we’re a long way away from a conclusion when it comes to Yucca Mountain,” he said in reference to the work stoppage.

Breslow was asked to respond to a report Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the NRC closing down review work on the Yucca Mountain project. The newspaper reported that questions were being raised about whether NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was acting on his own in directing the work stoppage.

The NRC rejected any such claims.

Groups that support the continuation of licensing at Yucca Mountain have complained that Jaczko is halting the review without authority.

Randi Thompson, spokeswoman for Nevadans 4 Carbon-Free Energy, said Jaczko formerly worked for dump opponent U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“So he does not come into this position with an open mind on the Yucca issue,” she said.

Nevadans 4 Carbon-Free Energy is interested in turning Yucca Mountain into a R&D complex to research renewable energies and develop nuclear reprocessing technologies.

Thompson said also there is a significant difference between funding construction of Yucca Mountain and performing the document review necessary for licensing.

Jaczko, “is making a big jump between saying there is no money for Yucca and there is no money to review the documents,” she said.

The NRC is obligated by law to review the documents to assess whether Yucca Mountain would make s safe repository, Thompson said.

Breslow said Nevada is a party to a lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, where several states and other government entities are seeking to stop the U.S. Department of Energy from withdrawing its Yucca Mountain license.

The state is also waiting for a decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on a ruling by the licensing board denying the DOE’s right to withdraw its license,” he said.

That decision is not likely to come until after the November election, Breslow said.

“The election will have a big impact on the future of Yucca Mountain,” he said.

“So we’re all in no man’s land waiting for the NRC’s decision on the appeal, on the federal licensing decisions and the appeal, on who wins the elections because that will have an effect on whether Yucca gets funded in the future, and things like that,” Breslow said.

Thompson agreed about the effect of the November election, saying a Sharron Angle win in the Nevada U.S. Senate race could change the future of Yucca Mountain.

Breslow said work at the actual Yucca Mountain site stopped nearly a year ago.

President Barack Obama announced early this year of his intention to phase out funding for Yucca Mountain and to seek withdraw of the license application.

But Breslow said other states want the licensing process to continue so Yucca Mountain will be available to bury their radioactive waste even though Nevada has proven it is unsafe.

“And the bottom line is every other state wants to dump its waste in Nevada and Nevada wouldn’t receive a dime for it,” he said.

Audio clips:

Nevada Nuclear Projects chief Bruce Breslow says the work stoppage does not mean the end of Yucca Mountain:

101110Breslow1 :10 to Yucca Mountain.”

Randi Thompson says NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko worked for Harry Reid:

101110Thompson1 :09 the Yucca issue.”

Thompson says there is a difference between funding Yucca and funding the document review:

101110Thompson2 :08 review the documents.”

Thompson says the NRC is required by Congress to perform the review:

101110Thompson3 :18 repository or not.”

Breslow says a number of issues are at play in the future of the project:

101110Breslow2 :21 things like that.”

Breslow says other states want Yucca licensed:

101110Breslow3 :09 dime for it.”

U.S. Energy Department Loses Ruling To Terminate Yucca Mountain Licensing, Nevada To Appeal

By Sean Whaley | 11:06 am June 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A ruling by a panel of federal judges saying the U.S. Department of Energy does not have the authority to withdraw its licensing application of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository will be appealed, a Nevada official said yesterday.

Bruce Breslow, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said the ruling is just one step in a very long process.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “Nevada respects but disagrees with the licensing board’s decision.”

Breslow said the decision was going to be appealed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by whichever side lost the ruling. Nevada is in continuing contact with its legal team to determine the best avenue to move forward with the appeal, he said.

Any decision by the NRC will likely be appealed by the losing side as well, Breslow said.

“We’re a long way from getting a final decision,” he said.

The three administrative judges with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board said the Secretary of Energy conceded that the Yucca Mountain application is not flawed nor the site unsafe, but that the motion to withdraw the application with prejudice is a matter of policy because the Nevada site is, “not a workable option.”

The motion was opposed by several entities, including the states of Washington and South Carolina.

The panel of judges rejected the motion to withdraw, finding that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, “does not give the secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress in the NWPA that, at this point, mandates progress toward a merits decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the construction permit.”

The panel said: “Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the application.”

Nevada has been fighting the creation of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, for decades.

Earlier this year, in what was viewed as a final victory for opponents of the project, the Obama Administration sought to end the licensing process for the dump.


Audio clips:

Breslow says Nevada will appeal:

062910Breslow1 :12 Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Breslow says final decision a long ways off:

062910Breslow2 :15 a final decision.”

NRC Orders Licensing Board to Make Decision on DOE’s Motion to Withdraw License for Yucca Mountain

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:15 am April 23rd, 2010

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this morning voted to overturn the U.S. Atomic Energy Safety and Licensing Board’s order to suspend the Yucca Mountain administrative hearings.

The NRC has ordered the licensing board to make a decision on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) motion to withdraw the license for Yucca Mountain with prejudice by June 1.

Bruce Breslow, the executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, says the board’s decision is expected to be appealed to the NRC Commission and that the final NRC order will likely be appealed to the federal courts by one or more of the parties.

“The State of Nevada is pleased by this morning’s NRC ruling that allows the administrative hearing to continue,” said Breslow.

“I believe it is most important to exhaust all administrative remedies and get a final decision by this summer to allow the Department of Energy to withdraw its Yucca License Application with prejudice,” he said.

Randi Thompson, the executive director for the Alliance for Nevada’s Economic Prosperity, says the issue is more political than scientific.

“The NRC and the U.S. Atomic Energy Safety and Licensing Board are being used to make a politically motivated policy decision,” said Thompson. “To maintain their reputation as a scientific “regulatory” board, they have no choice but to punt this issue to the courts instead of being allowed to do their job and complete the scientific review process.”

Thompson said she believes Congress should just amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow for new technologies that would render the need for long-term storage at Yucca moot.

“Instead of using the NRC and throwing this issue into the courts at taxpayer expense, they should let the review process continue so Nevadans can learn one way or another if Yucca Mountain is a safe place to hold spent nuclear fuel either in the interim or long-term,” said Thompson.

There are still two federal court cases in which various interested parties are trying to stop the DOE from withdrawing the Yucca Mountain license application.

One lawsuit names the DOE and President Obama and is being litigated by the state of South Carolina, Aiken County, SC and a private party.  The DOE has made a motion to hold the case in abeyance until May 12, and it is expected that the plaintiffs will soon respond to that motion.

The second lawsuit was brought by the state of Washington and challenges the DOE’s authority to withdraw the license under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Washington has also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the withdrawal of the application. The DOE has until April 24 to respond to that injunction, and the state of Washington has until April 28 to reply. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will then rule on the matter.

Breslow said additional federal court cases are expected after there is a final administrative decision from the NRC.

“I fully expect various parties to continue to ask the federal courts to jam this project down Nevada’s throat,” said Breslow. “But we’ll keep fighting this bad project which would cause serious harm to the health and economy of Southern Nevada.”

Thompson reiterated her long-held opinion that seeing the application process through and amending the scope and nature of the project are the right answer.

“They should not just toss out Yucca without an alternative,” she said.

Yucca Mountain Legal Mess Worsens

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:55 pm April 9th, 2010

According to the executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Bruce Breslow, this week saw some unexpected and interesting new developments in the ongoing litigation process related to the Yucca Mountain License application.

“The matter is becoming increasingly complicated,” said Breslow.

Nevada had been in the middle of the Yucca Mountain License Application hearing process when on March 3, 2010, the Department of Energy (DOE) made a motion to withdraw the license with prejudice.

“When that happened, it took many people and entities by surprise,” said Breslow.

As a result of the DOE motion to withdraw, the states of Washington and South Carolina, as well as Aiken County S.C., a native American tribe from Michigan, and three gentleman from Hanford, Wa., each filed motions to oppose the DOE motion to withdraw the license for Yucca.

All motions were made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Atomic Safety and Construction Authorization Board (CAB) before which the licensing hearings were being held.

At approximately the same time, the state of South Carolina, Aiken County and the plaintiffs from Hanford filed lawsuits against the DOE in federal court in order to stop the license withdrawal from taking place. Those lawsuits are scheduled to be heard in the the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.

But parties to the matter were again surprised when the NRC’s CAB this Tuesday issued an order stating, among other things, that they would suspend the entire process and withhold decisions on the five new petitions to intervene as well as the DOE’s motion to withdraw, pending further developments in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Yesterday, two parties asked the Court of Appeals for an “expedited schedule,” and the court asked for comments from Nevada on that issue by Monday at 4 p.m.

At the same time, a letter was sent to the Court of Appeals by the DOE and legal counsel for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission informing the Court that the DOE will appeal the latest order from the CAB to the full Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday.

“We do not know what the DOE will say in their appeal,” said Breslow. “But since the CAB “punted” on the hearing, the DOE may ask the NRC to overturn the CAB and continue to the process. Or the NRC could interject itself into the process and consider the interventions and the DOE’s original motion to withdraw with prejudice.”

The NRC informed the appeals court that the CAB order was only “an interlocutory order of an administrative hearing tribunal within the NRC and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NRC Commission itself.”

“The NRC Commission is the final decision maker in the administrative process,” said Breslow. “Nevada will file comments with the U. S. Court of Appeals on Monday as requested.”

In another new development today, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) filed a late motion to join the federal appeals court lawsuits. Whether or not they are admitted, since they filed late, will be up to the appeals court, said Breslow.