The House of Representatives voted 340-72 to pass legislation Thursday to set up a national repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Yucca Mountain was designated a national repository by Congress in 1987. The Obama administration cut funding to the licensing process in 2011, halting the studies and assessments necessary to approve the facility for nuclear storage.
“The federal government has dedicated enormous resources to completing the nuclear storage facility at Yucca Mountain,” GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina said in a statement. “In South Carolina, ratepayers have invested over $1.3 billion into Yucca over the last 30 years. Starting over with another project would cost billions of dollars and would take decades to complete.”
Wilson supported the original legislation and offered an amendment that would prevent another national nuclear repository from being proposed, planned and licensed until after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided whether or not to license Yucca Mountain.
For decades, Nevadans have fought turning Yucca Mountain into a “dumping ground” for used uranium. Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada challenged Energy Secretary Rick Perry on continuing the licensing process for Yucca in a House hearing Wednesday.
“What I want to do is emphasize that Yucca Mountain is also a threat to our national security because the site is located on DOE’s national security site,” Rosen said.
“Yucca Mountain is actually seismically active, as well,” Rosen added, referencing a previous exchange in which Perry recognized the danger of storing nuclear waste in San Onofre, Calif., because of the chance of a severe earthquake.
“The important aspect of this issue from a DOE standpoint and a secretary of Energy standpoint is that I have a requirement of law to take this licensing process forward,” Perry said. “The debate on Yucca, whether it should be open or shouldn’t be open, that’s been going on a long time … [My responsibility] is to follow the law, and the law says the DOE will go forward with the licensing side of it.”
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