53°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Rick Perry tangles with Nevada’s Cortez Masto over Yucca Mountain plans

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry trotted up to Capitol Hill for a third congressional hearing over three days and tangled with U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto over Trump administration plans to restart licensing of the Yucca Mountain project in Nye County.

Lawmakers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 22 attacked the $28 billion budget for the Department of Energy for cuts to scientific research, hazardous waste cleanup and not seeking viable options on nuclear waste storage.

Perry was met by aggressive questions from Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, who peppered the secretary about the administration’s “full-throated support” for permanently storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain without looking for other alternatives.

And Cortez Masto questioned Perry’s “doubling down” on the Silver State when he suggested temporarily placing it at the Nevada National Security Site.

The senator asked why the administration would not seek a consent-based approach to finding areas to take nuclear waste, and why it dismissed Obama administration decisions that the Yucca Mountain site was unworkable.

“At least look at the science,” Cortez Masto implored.

Perry said he was motivated to find storage for nuclear waste piling up at power plants, particularly those in California prone to earthquakes. He also referred to the 1980’s law that designated Yucca Mountain as the site for permanent storage.

Perry, whose first trip on the job was to Yucca Mountain, told House and Senate appropriations subcommittees this week that there is a “moral obligation” to move nuclear waste stockpiling at nuclear power plants in 39 states.

Trump administration

The Trump administration budget for DOE includes $120 million for management of nuclear waste. That includes $110 million to be spent on restarting the licensing process of Yucca Mountain, a repository in Nevada located about 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

A total of $10 million is designated to implement a “robust” plan for interim storage.

Perry tripped up earlier this week, suggesting to a House panel that in addition to sites in New Mexico and Texas, the Nevada National Security Site near Yucca Mountain could temporarily store spent nuclear fuel.

The surprise statement blindsided Gov. Brian Sandoval, who received a call from the White House and who spoke to the DOE, which prompted Perry to clarify is position that no decisions have been made on any sites.

Perry told Cortez Masto again that no decision has been made on plans for any site.

A closer look

Cortez Masto told the Las Review-Journal following the hearing that science shows that Yucca Mountain is not ready or primed to receive waste.

“I don’t think he even knows what’s out there — even though he has been out there,” Cortez Masto said of Perry. “I’m going to challenge him every step of the way.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, in a letter to the committee, expressed his opposition to the department budget spending proposal on Yucca Mountain and urged Perry to explain the cost to taxpayers for trying to force nuclear waste on Nevada instead of finding alternative “areas where they are willing to take it.”

Both Cortez Masto and Heller want a new cost study on the Yucca Mountain proposal.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the committee chairwoman, said key senators were expected to file a bill later this year that would instruct the DOE to evaluate additional permanent and temporary storage sites for spent nuclear waste.

“That effort is still out there — that consent-based approach,’’ Murkowski said.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
COVID-19 cases in Nevada

The COVID-19 outbreak has been spreading across Nevada for the last several weeks. The current number of positive cases, though there are none in Nye County at the time of this writing, is 738. The number of deaths in the state is 14, according to the data.

Dispute at fast food drive-thru leads to pursuit

A verbal altercation at the Burger King drive-thru led to a sheriff’s office pursuit along southbound Highway 160 just after 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.

House passes $2.2T coronavirus relief package

The vote came after lawmakers were forced to scramble back to the Capitol when a lone Republican bucked GOP leaders and threatened to force a roll call vote.

Nevada needs Las Vegas tourism to survive shutdown

Nevada is in for a severe economic stretch because of the governor’s mandated closure of non-essential businesses. The closure affects both small business owners and large gaming corporations.

4th Annual Veterans Extravaganza in Pahrump sees another successful year

Ask any of the participants or organizers at the Veterans Extravaganza and you’ll likely end up with the same answer from each of them; it’s all about giving back to the men and women who have donned a U.S. military uniform and dedicated themselves to serving the country, often sacrificing their own personal well-being in order to help protect America and its citizens.

RSVP shifting gears during Coronavirus outbreak

In a time when “social distancing” has become the new norm in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, businesses and organizations nationwide are retooling and changing their models in an effort to keep their operations functioning until the country returns to its former status quo.

Nevada’s primary voting to take place by mail

The coronavirus continues to expands its hold on everyday life in America and not even Nevada’s primary elections are able to escape the overrearching impact.

Nye’s 2020 state and federal primary races set

For the 2020 primary election, Nye County voters will play a part in determining who holds certain state and federal offices, including seats for the U.S House of Representatives District 4, Nevada State Senate District 19, Nevada State Assembly District 32 and Nevada Assembly District 36.