House members slam Obama on closing Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site

Republicans and Democrats in the House slammed the Obama administration's plan to close the nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, as both praised a bill that would keep that site open, and indicated they would try to add more money to keep the site active.

Members were debating the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act late Thursday. The bill, H.R. 5325, includes $25 million for Yucca Mountain, which Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said would keep the site useable in the future.

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"Research and development activities to support Yucca are permitted," he said. "This will ensure that we keep Congress in the driver's seat for nuclear waste policy."

House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) added that he supports that language, and would try to add more money to send a signal that Congress opposes efforts to close the site.

"I want to applaud the chairman and ranking member for continuing the funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility," Dicks said. He said adding money in an amendment would "underscore the strong bipartisan support in the House for moving ahead with a plan to open the nation's high-level waste storage facility."

"I believe as many do in the House that administration's position to close the Yucca Mountain site runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act passed by the Congress," he said.

Members debated the 2013 energy and water spending bill late Thursday, in preparation for work on amendments by next week. While members of both parties noted that tight budget constraints required tough choices on how to fund the Department of Energy and other agencies, the bill spends $32.1 billion, about $88 million more than current funding.

Within the bill, $26 billion is reserved for the Department of Energy, $345 million more than current year funding. But the bill cuts funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, and an environmental cleanup fund.

Frelinghuysen said the bill supports nuclear security, and ensures the Secretary of Energy has the funds needed to certify the safety of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. He also said the bill seeks to cut back on grants that have been controversial in recent months.

"No funding is provided for Solyndra-like loan guarantee programs in our bill," he said.