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Nevada Senate panel unanimous on opposing Yucca Mountain

A resolution stating the Nevada Legislature’s opposition to the construction of a high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain won unanimous approval from a Senate panel.

Assembly Joint Resolution 10 will now go to the full Senate for a final vote after getting a do pass from the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee on Friday. It has already passed the Assembly.

AJR10 was introduced in March just as the Trump administration announced a budget request of $120 million to restart licensing proceedings with the goal of making it the burial site for 77,000 metric tons of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. That funding was not made part of a stopgap federal budget measure approved by Congress, but money could be included in the new federal budget that will start Oct. 1.

The Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee heard the resolution, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Brooks, on May 8.

“Congress needs to understand the severity of the situation,” Brooks, D-Las Vegas, told lawmakers, adding that storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain would be “catastrophic for Nevada’s tourism economy.”

The Yucca project had been defunded in 2012.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and most Nevada state lawmakers oppose the restart of the project.

But some Nevada elected officials, including Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, argue the licensing proceedings should be allowed to go forward to determine decisively whether Yucca Mountain is a suitable site for the dump.

About 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Yucca Mountain is the only site federal scientists have studied in-depth for burying used nuclear fuel assemblies from nuclear power plants nationwide.

Bob Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, gave lawmakers a presentation about the history of Yucca Mountain, including recent developments and efforts in Washington to restart it.

“It’s critically important that Nevada send a message to the rest of the country,” he said.

If efforts to store nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain progress, he said, “we intend to defeat them in licensing.”

“The licensing is where the law and the facts come together,” he said.

Representatives for the Nevada Conservation League and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the resolution. No one opposed the measure.

The Legislature’s money committees earlier this month approved funding to continue the fight against the project. The budget for the Agency for Nuclear Projects totals $3.8 million for the next two years. The attorney general’s office budget also includes $3.4 million over two years to fight the project.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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