House rejects bids to abandon nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain

The House on Thursday defeated two proposals to prevent development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) offered two amendments to the fiscal 2015 Energy-Water appropriations bill to block the potential facility.

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One of her amendments, rejected 96-326, would have stricken a section of the bill preventing the use of funds to "irrevocably remove the possibility that Yucca Mountain may be a repository option in the future."

Titus urged fellow lawmakers to block construction of a nuclear repository in her state.

"Nevada is not a wasteland," Titus said.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) said construction of a repository at Yucca Mountain would threaten Nevada's tourism industry.

"People come to Vegas for the bright lights, not for radioactive glow," Horsford said.

But Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said that the government should continue investing in a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain to avoid wasting previously allocated funds.

"I am not trying to be a jerk. I know it is tough," Shimkus said. "Thirty-two states have put in money to the Nuclear Waste Fund on a promise that the federal government would have a site. Your amendment would say no, we are just going to walk away again."

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the chairman of the House Energy-Water Appropriations subcommittee, argued that the administration had stalled action on Yucca Mountain simply so that President Obama could win Nevada's electoral votes.

"We need to wait for the safety review by the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] to be done to decide what we are going to do moving forward, instead of political decisions that have been made on Yucca Mountain in the past," Simpson said.

Titus's second amendment, defeated 75-344, would eliminate all $150 million allocated for nuclear waste disposal and instead divert the funds toward reducing the deficit. Titus said the entire account would ultimately be used toward developing Yucca Mountain.

"The legislation before us directs $150 million to be spent on 'activities related to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.' For my constituents in southern Nevada, we know that that is code for 'build the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository,'" Titus said.

But Simpson argued it would be wasteful to abandon the study of the Yucca Mountain site.

"We can argue as to whether Yucca Mountain is the right place or not," Simpson said. "It is the most studied piece of earth on this Earth. We know more about it than anywhere else. Yet, for political reasons, we have stopped it, and it will truly be a $15 billion waste if we don't proceed." 

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