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Federal lawmaker makes a last-minute plea to derail Yucca Mountain bill

WASHINGTON — A federal lawmaker from Las Vegas is making a last-minute plea to stop a House energy bill that would jump-start the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project in Nevada.

U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Las Vegas, sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and the ranking Democrat, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, asking them to stop the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 because of Air Force concerns of encroachment at Nellis Air Force Base.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this year that transport of high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain would impact combat drills at the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The NTTR is the largest air and ground training space in the contiguous United States.

Rosen, a member of the Armed Services Committee, cited the Air Force secretary’s comments that developing Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository “threatens national security by adversely impacting the ability of Nellis Air Force Base to complete its core mission.”

She is urging the committee leaders to stop the bill from advancing.

The House nuclear waste bill was passed out of committee earlier this year on a 49-4 vote.

It provides $120 million for the Department of Energy to continue the licensing application process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The legislation also includes funds to explore temporary storage of the materials.

A full vote in the House is expected as early as next week.

Schinhofen responds

The Pahrump Valley Times contacted Nye County government this week for a response.

“As usual, those against this project will try anything to stop having the hearings that could clear all these issues up,” Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said in a statement.

“Rep. Rosen should have had her staff brief her on all the scientific studies that have gone into this project, $12 billion worth,” Schinhofen continued. “Instead, she regurgitates all the misinformation and scare tactics that the state has been spreading for years,” Schinhofen said.

He said it’s not known where the Air Force secretary got her information but the transportation routes have not been finalized and the Department of Defense has been involved for 25 years. Nye County would be happy to sit down with the Air Force secretary and discuss the history and possible routes, Schinhofen said.

“Why is it that those that tell us it isn’t safe or there is an issue with routes refuse to fund the hearings so they can prove their point?” he asked.

“This is what the licensing process is all about—working out the details of the operations of the repository. If the secretary has a concern, the best thing the state’s delegation can do is get the license proceeding moving again.”

Senate, Nevada leaders

The Senate has yet to take up legislation to address nuclear waste storage from power plants, and the upper chamber has historically been at odds with the House.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennesee, chairman of the Senate Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee, wants a more robust interim storage program.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and most of the state’s congressional delegation oppose creating a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, and nine rural counties, including Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located, support continuation of the licensing process to determine if the project is safe and should be developed.

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