No funding for Nevada nuclear waste repository in proposed federal budget

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Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Mon, Feb 10, 2020 (2:42 p.m.)

President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget doesn’t include any funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Released today, the budget includes language criticizing the political stalemate over the stalled project, which was defunded a decade ago. Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has been designated as the nation’s sole storage site for spent nuclear waste.

“One large hurdle that still faces the nuclear industry is the disposal of spent nuclear fuel,” the budget document notes. It says the standstill “has gone on too long,” and the Trump administration is “initiating processes to develop alternative solutions and engaging states in developing an actionable path forward.”

It’s not clear what those solutions might be. The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a tweet last week, Trump said: “Congress and previous Administrations have long failed to find lasting solutions — my Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches — I’m confident we can get it done!”

Gov. Steve Sisolak today released a letter sent to the White House asking the president to veto any legislation that doesn’t let state, local and tribal governments ultimately decide if they want to allow a nuclear storage facility.

“As a country, we have an opportunity to move beyond the tired fight over Yucca Mountain and into an era of consent-based siting for nuclear waste,” Sisolak said in the letter. “Nevada would welcome your support on these matters.”

The Yucca Mountain portion of the budget request received support from some Nevada lawmakers, even as they criticized proposed cuts to programs such as Medicare and departments like the Environmental Protection Agency.

“While I am relieved to hear that the president has heard the voices of Nevadans across the state who have long opposed Yucca Mountain, I’m disappointed to see him take aim again at our nation’s health care system,” U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., whose district includes Yucca Mountain, credited Nevada lawmakers for winning the fight against funding for the repository.

“The hard work of the Nevada delegation has clearly put pressure on the White House, as evidenced by the president’s newfound commitment to finding alternatives,” Horsford said in a statement. “The people of Nevada have made themselves clear: we do not want our state to be the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste.”

Congress must approve the budget before it is enacted.

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