Yucca Mountain left out of Senate funding bill

Senate appropriators have introduced a $35 billion energy and water spending bill that would not fund a nuclear waste depository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

But the Republican senator behind the bill says he is not giving up on funding the project this session, floating the possibility that it could come to the floor as an amendment. 

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“Putting an end to our decades-long nuclear waste stalemate will involve completing Yucca Mountain,” said Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding Key chairman open to delaying repeal of ObamaCare mandate MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s energy and water panel. “I look forward to an open amendment process in the U.S. Senate and to working with the House to remove obstacles to nuclear power.”

Republicans, including Alexander, have long pushed for a nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, but its prospects have been hindered by a handful of political barriers. President Obama opposes the project, as does much of the Nevada congressional delegation, including Republican Sen. Dean Heller and, critically, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Keeping Yucca funding out an appropriations bill delays a fight over the project at least until the bill hits the floor.

Republicans have said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is legally beholden to complete its review of the Yucca project, but NRC officials say they will only have enough money to do a portion of that work. They estimate that the full review could cost $330 million and take several years to complete.

House lawmakers included $50 million for the NRC’s review of Yucca in their version of the 2016 energy and water funding bill.

The Senate’s bill contains a pilot program from Alexander and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would allow for consolidated nuclear waste storage. it also allows the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste at private facilities around the country. Alexander called the bill a "bipartisan starting point."