Nye County chairman disappointed by Nevada opposition to Yucca Mountain

Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said he was disappointed by the steadfast opposition of the Nevada delegation to Yucca Mountain at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing.

In a statement that was issued after the three-hour hearing wrapped up in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Schinhofen, a top Nye County proponent of Yucca Mountain, said although he was pleased with “a lot of testimony,” the stance of the Nevada delegation was “disappointing.”

“Continuing to use fear and politics over science is irresponsible to the people of Nevada and security of the nation,” Schinhofen said in a statement.

All members of the Nevada delegation, including U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, and U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen spoke against the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, a legislation that aims to revive the nuclear waste dump in Nye County.

Ruben Kihuen, Nevada’s freshman congressman whose 4th District includes Yucca Mountain, spoke against the project. He said that his constituents deserve the right to have their voices heard on Yucca Mountain. “They deserve to be a part of the conversation, especially when it concerns their safety and their security,” Kihuen said.

And while Kihuen said that Nevadans are strongly opposed to the construction of Yucca Mountain, Nye County officials in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee challenged any suggestion that all Nevadans oppose the project.

Heller said the proposed legislation will lead to “more litigation wasting more taxpayer dollars, while usurping state’s air and water permitting authority.”

“I appreciate your commitment to ensure that progress is made on this issue, however, I do not believe that the bill that is before the committee today is the solution,” Heller told the committee.

Taxpayer dollars would be better spent identifying alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it, Heller said.

“The state of Nevada will contest any license application. This means years, years of litigation, while progress remains stalled on how to dispose of spent nuclear waste,” Heller said.

During the hearing, officials said that it could take up to three to four years to determine if Yucca Mountain could be licensed.

In his statement afterward, Schinhofen said such a step is worth a final determination by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“If the science proves Yucca Mountain to be a safe and secure site, Nevada and the region will benefit from a major capital project that will generate billions of dollars in construction work and well-paying support jobs that will span over decades,” Schinhofen said.

Schinhofen also called Wednesday’s hearing a positive step toward living up to the nation’s promises made by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that designated Yucca Mountain as a sole site that scientists would study as a storage site of the nation’s nuclear waste.

“The time is now for restarting the licensing process and having the science heard for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository,” he said.

The nuclear power reactors provide about 20 percent of electricity the United States. Nevada is one of the 17 states that don’t have nuclear power reactors, and opponents of Yucca Mountain have long argued that the state shouldn’t bear the responsibility for waste it doesn’t generate.

Nye, the host county of Yucca Mountain and eight other Nevada counties support the NRC’s completion of the Yucca Mountain licensing process.

“Your bill is an attempt to start a discussion with the state,” Schinhofen told the committee in a letter. “The state can even receive benefits without forfeiting its right to present a scientific case against Yucca. That is a reasonable offer and we hope the state takes advantage of it and comes to the table.”

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77