By Mark Waite
Nye County invited the U.S. Department of Energy to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, but Gov. Brian Sandoval said no way will he agree to it.
A letter signed by Nye County Commissioners March 6 informed DOE Secretary Steven Chu the county formally consents to host the repository. The county cites the suggestion of President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission that calls for a consent-based approach to siting a repository.
A letter from the governor, dated March 12, agrees the Blue Ribbon Commission recommended a consent-based approach and an expedited effort to find an interim storage site.
But Sandoval wrote: “There should be no uncertainty or misunderstanding of my position with regard to an interim, spent fuel storage site or repository site in Nevada. The State of Nevada does not support the location of any such site within the state and will oppose any attempt to either resurrect the defunct Yucca Mountain project or locate an interim storage facility at Yucca or elsewhere in Nevada.”
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis said the county could capitalize on the Blue Ribbon Commission’s suggestion without the state. The county letter suggested setting up a meeting with the DOE in March.
But the governor said in his letter, “While I am cognizant of the letter sent to you last week from Nye County expressing support for a Yucca Mountain repository, Nye County does not and cannot speak for the State of Nevada.”
Nye County officials note the Nuclear Waste Policy Act has never been repealed, making a geologic repository the law of the land.
Sandoval points out under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the DOE is prohibited from locating an interim storage site in Nevada while Yucca Mountain is still a potential repository location. He said the DOE indicated it intends to terminate the Yucca Mountain program, though the licensing process has been suspended, not terminated.
Nye County and the State of Nevada have for years been at loggerheads about Yucca Mountain. The county has had a policy of constructive engagement with the DOE on the project; the state has been steadfastly opposed to it.
Nye County suggests a significant, financial incentive package to the state and county could resolve the deadlock to locating a repository. Sandoval doesn’t indicate the state would be open to any negotiations.
Nye County received Payment Equal to Taxes from the DOE for the property value of Yucca Mountain that reached a peak of $11.25 million per year in 2007.
Sandoval said the Nevada Revised Statutes make it unlawful for any person or governmental entity to store high level radioactive waste in Nevada, which reflects the clear position of the Nevada Legislature.
Sandoval’s letter concludes: “Please be advised that Nevada wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of the BRC and believes that the consent-based approach represents the best chance for ultimately solving the nation’s nuclear waste management problem. However, Nevada will not consent to an interim storage facility or repository being considered in the state.”