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Horsford votes to strip Yucca funding

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., took to the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday to support U.S. Rep. Dina Titus’ amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that would strip all funding to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Horsford, who was elected in 2012 to Nevada’s new fourth congressional district, which includes Nye County, reminded legislators Yucca Mountain is in his district and gave them the proper pronunciation of “Nevada.”

“If we’re going to screw Nevada by bringing nuclear waste and trying to store it in our state, we should start by recognizing that the people of Nevada hold dear to what’s important to our state,” Horsford said in front of a nearly empty chamber. “I oppose efforts to fund the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project. Any avenues for the activation of this project should be blocked.

“Potential funding for the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain should be put to better use, whether it is to reduce our deficit or fund other essential government programs. Nuclear storage at Yucca Mountain is a failed and unworkable proposal. There are investments we have made in Yucca Mountain already, as my colleague has said, some $15 billion, and we should find an appropriate, alternative use for this site. But as it stands, this is a project that has been flawed from the start, and it remains flawed today.”

“This isn’t about one political party or another. Our state has worked across the aisle for decades, from our governor, Brian Sandoval, to Senator Dean Heller, to others. So this is not a partisan issue, this is a state’s rights issue, and the people of Nevada reject you storing your nuclear waste in our backyard,” he said, while the gavel came down marking his time limit to speak.

The House Energy and Water subcommittee included $205 million for Yucca Mountain in its $34 billion spending bill for the coming fiscal year.

“All we can do is what we think is right,” committee chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said after the introduction of the bill last month. “Yucca Mountain is still the law of the land and we want (the Department of Energy) to proceed with a licensing application.”

But U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime foe of the project, promised the latest attempt to revive the Yucca Mountain project “will go nowhere.” The bill contains $150 million for Energy Department nuclear waste activities that is intended to be spent mostly on Yucca Mountain, another $55 million is allocated for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue licensing.

“The Nevada congressional delegation has typically taken that approach. It’s a very controversial decision locally. It’s not a surprise to us,” Nye County Nuclear Waste Project Office Director Darrell Lacy said.

Lacy said U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. is the only Nevada politician who has shown any willingness to have a discussion about Yucca Mountain..

“Nye County’s position has always been we would like to see the science. We would like to see the licensing process move forward and get the scientific analysis done so we can see if it can be done safely or not. We don’t feel stripping the funding at this time from the Yucca Mountain licensing process is the way to get the questions answered,” Lacy said. “Our support has always been based on it being found safe by the experts at the NRC.”

A state panel Tuesday approved nearly $1.4 million to continue Nevada’s fight against Yucca Mountain, though the project was described as like “the walking dead.” The request for funding submitted by Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto and the state Agency for Nuclear Projects, was approved by the Board of Examiners, which includes Gov. Brian Sandoval and Secretary of State Ross Miller. It will go to the state Legislature Interim Finance Committee for approval.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Sean Whaley and Stephens Media Washington correspondent Steven Tetreault contributed to this report.

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