U.S. House sets vote on Yucca Mountain bill

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, has scheduled a vote for Thursday on a bill that would allow the Department of Energy to resume the license application process to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee moved the bill to the House last year on a 49-4 vote, and passage by the full House is expected, with support across party lines.

But the legislation faces hurdles in the Senate, where Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennesee, is expected to file a bipartisan bill that would emphasize the need for interim storage until permanent repositories like Yucca Mountain can be developed.

Nuclear waste is being stockpiled at energy plants in 39 states. Congress designated Yucca Mountain in 1987 as a permanent storage site. The DOE license application was stalled in 2011 under the Obama administration.

Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen welcomed a vote on the bill.

“As has been stated many times before, this bill, and our interest, is only to have the science heard by a neutral, technical body and not be muzzled by politics,” Schinhofen said in a statement.

The Trump administration backs attempts in the House to revive that process.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has vowed to spend millions in state money to stop the nuclear repository from opening. He is backed by most lawmakers in the state’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, said nothing has changed since the delegation testified against the bill last year.

“Bringing this legislation to the floor is nothing more than a show for the nuclear industry and its campaign cash recipients in Congress,” Titus said.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, has filed legislation that would prohibit the DOE from taking any action to license Yucca Mountain as a nuclear repository until the federal government studies alternative uses for the Nevada site.

The legislation would direct the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a study on alternative uses, including defense activities like a command facility for unmanned aircraft.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nevada,, whose congressional district includes Yucca Mountain, is opposed to the bill. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has spoken in favor of allowing the application process to continue.

Sens. U.S. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, have worked through the committee process to halt licensing of Yucca Mountain.

Heller specifically asked Senate appropriators not to include funding for licensing sought by the Trump administration and the House.

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