The Yucca Mountains of Nevada have long been the proposed dumping grounds for the nuclear waste left over from the Cold War. Nevada Senator Harry Reid, D., has long declared the project killed, and has drawn up a bill with three other Nevada congresspeople, Sen. Dean Heller, R., Rep. Dina Titus, D., and Rep. Joe Heck, R., that would require consent from Nevada’s governor, local government, and local Indian tribes from the federal government to dump the waste. If passed the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act would give the state the final say over the Yucca Mountains.
Reid proposed the bill to “ensure that Nevada…has a meaningful voice if they are considered for a nuclear waste repository.” He and the other three backers remain unconvinced that the waste can be safely kept separate from groundwater. A huge spill may also ruin Nevada’s tourist economy, which the state is dependent on for their income. However, with a Republican Senate and House, and Nevada state governor Brian Sandoval, R., who opposed the bill, its chances of becoming legislation are slight. Republican John Shimkus, Ill., will be introducing legislation this summer that will give the federal government the overriding authority to store the highly radioactive waste in the mountains. It is predicted that Shimkus’ legislation will pass in the House of Representatives.
Two Republican Nevada congressmen, Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy, were not involved with Reid’s proposed bill. Both congressmen agreed that Nevada should have a say in the nuclear waste repository and that it should be carried out safely. One Republican who signed on Reid’s bill, Dean Heller, noted that the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act would have a stronger chance if Amodei and Hardy were involved.
Congress had originally planned to move the toxic waste to Nevada’s mountains in 1987, but Reid, along with the help of environmentalist groups, have managed to stall the project thus far. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety report concluded that properly stored nuclear waste would be isolated for a million years. NRC’s chairman Stephen Burns was appointed by President Barack Obama, who in his presidential campaign expressed the desire to abandon the Yucca Mountain project and terminated it in 2010. Nevada sponsors remain steadfast that their bill is consistent with the policy of Obama and his administration. Lobbyist groups such as the Nuclear Energy Institute support moving forward with the Yucca Mountain repository project.
Despite the difficulties of resisting against a nuclear waste repository in Nevada with a Republican controlled House and Senate, Reid and other Nevada lawmakers plan to continue fighting the Yucca Mountain project. The original 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act gave former governor Kenny Guinn the authority of a veto in 2002 over the mountains, but Congress overrode his decision with a 306-117 majority in the House and a 60-39 in the Senate. The new proposed bill would not allow Congress to override Nevada’s decision.
For Nevada taxpayers the indecision over whether or not to store nuclear waste in the Yuccas has become costly. With many Republicans pushing for the site to be used to store the waste, Nevada may or may more than likely not have a say over the Yucca Mountains.
By Danielle Kral
Photo by Frank Carey- Flickr License