GOP chairman pushes nuke regulators on Yucca waste site

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets Corker pressed as reelection challenges mount Overnight Health Care: CBO predicts 15 percent ObamaCare premium hike | Trump calls Sanders single-payer plan ‘curse on the US’ | Republican seeks score of Sanders’s bill MORE (R-Tenn.) is criticizing nuclear power regulators for not asking for money to review the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada.

Alexander, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with authority over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), pressed the commissioners, saying that their budget request does not move Yucca forward.

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“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a balance of unspent funding that you are supposed to use to continue the licensing process,” Alexander said in his prepared remarks for the Wednesday hearing.

“But more resources will be required, so I think it’s fair to ask the question: Knowing that there are additional steps and they will cost money, why would you not request additional funds in your budget?”

Alexander has long been an advocate of nuclear power, owing in part to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

He has proposed that the government adopt a goal of getting 100 new nuclear reactors operating.

Getting Yucca into service would help the nuclear power industry and give them more certainty, resolving what Alexander described as a “25-year stalemate” on nuclear waste.

The NRC completed a safety evaluation report on Yucca last year, and the next step would be to work on an environmental impact statement and restart stalled hearings on the matter.

“Money is available for these activities, and I want to hear why there is no request to use it,” he said.

Congress designated Yucca in 1987 to be the nation’s site to construct a permanent storage of nuclear waste. But opposition from Nevada officials, environmentalists and others has stalled it.

The Obama administration has refused to defend an application for Yucca submitted by the Bush administration’s Energy Department to the NRC. All of the recent budget requests from Obama ask for no money to move ahead on Yucca.