Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 5:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON — For all the talk of Yucca Mountain being dead, it sure seemed healthy this evening as a House subcommittee voted to give the project full funding — $494.7 million — for fiscal 2009.
Yet at the same time, the fate of the planned nuclear waste repository 90 miles north of Las Vegas has never been more uncertain.
Throughout the pro-nuclear Bush administration, the House has supported the president’s budget requests for Yucca Mountain only to see their efforts diluted in the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid, now the majority leader, routinely succeeds in knocking down the funding – last year eliminating more than $100 million from the $490 million request.
Even more, nuclear industry advocates no longer say they need Yucca Mountain to proceed with developing new nuclear power plants, which are gaining popularity as a carbon-free way to meet the nation’s growing energy needs in the face of global warming.
Earlier Tuesday, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, who now heads up a pro-nuclear group, said the nuclear renaissance will go on with or without Yucca Mountain.
“That is the designated site, but we also take the position that’s not the only site,” said Whitman, co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition known as CASEenergy. “This is not a deal-breaker going forward with nuclear.”
And so the future of Yucca Mountain remains unclear.
After Tuesday night’s vote, Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water, said the full funding his panel approved is a sign of its continued support for Yucca Mountain, “and obviously we’re one half of the legislative process.”
“It’s pretty clear that there is support for what I would like to characterize as a broad mix of energy utilizes in this country… be it renewables or nuclear or carbon-based or coal,” Visclosky said. “If you’re going to proceed, you need a repository.”