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Nevada lawmakers seek study of other uses for Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers tried to create a new roadblock to transforming Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste repository this month by introducing bills in the House and Senate that would require the government to study alternative uses of the site.

The Jobs, Not Waste Act is being spearheaded by Democrats Jacky Rosen in the Senate and Susie Lee in the House.

It calls on the White House Office of Management and Budget to study the economic viability of other uses before the Energy Department moves forward on the project to turn Yucca Mountain into a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste.

Rosen said the bill is one of the “smart, forward-thinking solutions to repurpose this misguided and ill-conceived project.”

The bill faces opposition in both legislative chambers from lawmakers in states with nuclear power plants who support developing Yucca Mountain to permanently store waste being stockpiled at 31 sites nationwide.

A similar bill filed by Rosen in the last Congress died for lack of a committee hearing in the GOP-controlled House.

Rosen said the bill would direct studies on alternative uses of the site, which could include a data storage facility or a command center for military unmanned aircraft systems.

“Any of these options could help create jobs without threatening the health and safety of Nevada families,” Rosen said.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Lee said she was filing the bill in the House, with bipartisan support, “to find new job-creating projects for Yucca Mountain other than nuclear waste storage.”

Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., whose district includes the Yucca Mountain site in Nye County, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, filed a bill this week, with support of all Nevada Democrats, that would require the federal government to receive consent from governors, tribes and local governments before constructing a nuclear waste repository in a state.

Titus did not join the delegation on the alternative jobs bill over policy differences and the possibility that the results of an OMB study could rule out other options for the site, making it easier for the federal government to move forward over objections of the state and local entities.

Congress in 1987 designated Yucca Mountain as the sole site for a permanent nuclear waste repository to store radioactive materials and spent fuel from power plants and Navy reactors.

Political opposition stalled the project during the Obama administration. President Donald Trump has proposed reviving the licensing process on the Energy Department’s application to construct the repository.

The state of Nevada has filed 218 challenges to the department’s application that question its analysis on the risk of groundwater contamination and exposure to the environment and population from the 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that it hopes to bury at the site.

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