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January 30, 2015

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Amodei’s efforts to strike Republican compromise on Yucca faces first real test

Last spring, Nevada didn’t have anyone in Congress who was open to bringing nuclear waste to the state. Now, it has Republican Amodei.


File photo

Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

When the House Appropriations committee votes on an annual Energy and Water package today, Nevadans might want to brace for some powerful deja vu: Just like last year, House Republican leaders want to spend $35 million to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project over Nevada lawmakers’ objections, all but setting up a repeat of last year’s fights.

Except for one thing: This year, Nevada’s delegation looks different.

Last spring, Nevada didn’t have anyone in Congress who was open to the idea of bringing nuclear waste to the state. Now, it has Republican Rep. Mark Amodei — and he says he’s ready to take on the pro-Yucca enthusiasts and try to work out a compromise.

It’s the first specific test of how far he’s willing to push his party on Yucca, and when they push back, whether he’ll fall into party line or object with his vote, as several Nevada representatives have before him.

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Mark Amodei

“I have said I think we need to talk about it. This gives us an opportunity to talk about it,” Amodei said Tuesday. “Once people get over the, ‘Oh my God, you said [Yucca]’s not dead,’ part, I think the focus goes to, 'OK, if it’s not dead, what is alive?'

“If it’s a nuclear landfill, then obviously nothing has changed and the game’s on,” Amodei said. “I don’t know of anybody who thinks we ought to have a nuclear landfill.”

Not anyone in the Nevada delegation, perhaps. But outside it, there are plenty.

“Yucca Mountain is the law of the land, and any efforts to move past Yucca Mountain require congressional action,” Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said last week. If the full committee approves the legislation on Wednesday, it moves to the full House for a vote.

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Sen. Harry Reid speaks to community members attending the 2012 Democratic Caucus Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, at Cheyenne High School.

He’s referring to the 1982 law that introduced Yucca as a potential waste deposit site; it was later amended in 1987 to designate Yucca as the country’s sole nuclear waste dump.

Since then, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended its licensing review of the site, effectively ending the procedural siting process. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also ensured Yucca funding has been expunged from every annual appropriations bill since Obama took office.

“The Yucca Mountain project failed and is now a relic of the past,” Reid said Tuesday.

But until there’s a new bill written to un-designate Yucca Mountain as the country’s nuclear dump, it’s technically ripe for refunding.

Most in the Nevada delegation aren’t convinced the law deserves as much weight as it has.

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Rep. Dean Heller

“This decision in 1987 initiated a one-sided debate, and the study of alternatives effectively ceased,” Nevada Sen. Dean Heller wrote in a letter he sent to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders Tuesday. “I am writing to request that you honor the wishes of the state of Nevada. ... Nevadans have a right to be safe in their own backyards.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., also objected.

“Once again, out-of-state Washington Republicans are attempting to force the nation’s nuclear waste a mere 90 miles from the greatest tourist destination on Earth,” she said, adding that Nevadans “have overwhelmingly rejected [the plan] time and again.”

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Shelley Berkley

In the House, there’s probably no Yucca agitator more vocal than Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, who led a delegation of lawmakers to Yucca Mountain last year and has told colleagues he’s tired of Reid’s pushback.

But Amodei believes he can talk to Shimkus and that the time is ripe to start a conversation.

Despite his readiness to pursue a third way, Amodei may nonetheless find himself running up procedural quirks of the legislative process that have stymied lawmakers before him, including Nevada Rep. Joe Heck’s best-intentioned efforts to strike a compromise solution last year.

When presented last year’s almost identical appropriations legislation on Yucca, Heck, who is opposed to bringing nuclear waste to the state, attempted to repurpose $25 million to go toward a nuclear reprocessing research facility at the site instead. Amodei believes that for Yucca Mountain to be feasible as a reprocessing research facility, Nevada would have to accept the waste.

Last year, Heck was told in no uncertain terms that it was beyond any lawmaker’s purview to try to undo an authorization bill — in this case, the 1982 bill — in an appropriations bill. The hurdle kept Heck from trying to address the other $10 million for Yucca-related projects in Nye County. He eventually voted against the bill.

There’s no word from Heck’s office yet as to whether he plans to attempt any similar end-run around the Energy and Water bill’s provisions on Yucca Mountain this year. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to adopt the relevant language intact Wednesday.

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  1. Amodei, and Heck before him, have the right idea. I'm disgusted that my party is so single-minded on this issue. Shimkus represents an area, if I recall correctly, that holds the most nuclear waste in the country. Negotiation is not in his best interest. House Republicans need to get off the inertia train and revisit this issue. I wish Amodei luck.

  2. "But Amodei believes he can talk to Shimkus and that the time is ripe to start a conversation."

    I'm tired of the silly games Mr. Amodei is playing by doing this stand on the fence looking one way and trying to appease the people on the other side of the fence regarding Yucca Mountain Project (YMP).

    We take him out with our votes. From his despicable stands on this acting like he's the Grand Negotiator is laughable. He's a stupid Tea/Republican and he is going to do his damndest to open YMP and in so doing try to make it look like it's in everyone's best interests in Southern Nevada.

    No. I call B.S. to his silly games.

    "Despite his readiness to pursue a third way, Amodei may nonetheless find himself running up procedural quirks of the legislative process that have stymied lawmakers before him, including Nevada Rep. Joe Heck's best-intentioned efforts to strike a compromise solution last year."

    Mr. Heck is also in the same boat as Mr. Amodei. He's acting like he's toe'ing the line and acting like some kind of voice of reason for both sides, but in actuality, he's nothing but another Tea Party type, the same type that Mr. Amodei is.

    He's also targeted to be taken out by our votes. Not only because of his dumb stand on YMP, but because he has a horrible record of votes where he stands in line ONLY with Speaker Boehner and Tea/Republican Party ideals, more so than anything Nevada or any of his constituents are even slightly interested in.

    I'm laughing because if you step back and look at these two yahoo's, what they are proposing is utterly ridiculous.

    They are actually saying they are willing to negotiate, that there is a need for level headed thinking, there is the possibility of compromise, that they are participating in governing and leading.

    If you look at that above paragraph and what they are trying to do, everything I mentioned is contrary to what any damn Tea/Republican is doing in the House. They don't compromise. They try to only dictate and rule. My way or the highway. Do what I say, not because it's good for you, BUT BECAUSE I SAY TO DO IT!

    Both Amodei and Heck are goners. Political suicide for their stupid stances on YMP.

    They don't stand up for Southern Nevada, but choose to add legitimacy to and stand up for Rep. Shimkus (R-IL)? And side with all the people in Washington and South Carolina that only want to dump nuclear trash in Nevada and make money off of it?

    Who's side are these two knuckleheads on?

    Take a stance, Amodei and Heck. Fight this. Just like all the other politicians are doing from Nevada.

    You don't? You have just signalled your political death. We're voting you out.

  3. Finally a supporter of jobs for Nevadians. These are not McDonalds jobs, they are real long term jobs and will not be affected by the progressive instagated downturns. Its much safer to walk thru the loaded storage facility than wakl down the strip.

  4. A disaster in the making. Let the states that benefit and create nuclear waste maintain that problem without passing it on to others. Nuclear energy is a timebomb built and maintained by fallible humans in every aspect of its existence.

  5. I will wish and support Mark on this talk. Over 10 billion dollars has been spent on this hole in the ground and we can't even store eggs in it..REALLY?

    We do need to support more nuclear power plants and storage as well as the industry that gleans from the waste. This hole has to be safer than any of the above ground storage that currently exists. What makes Nevadan's think Las Vegas is so much more precious than the communities that have waste stored behind chain link fences in this country. This project should be completed and billed as a tourist attraction. All the people that did the study saying it was safe, ought to be in prison if it is not safe. Name me anytime you can roll down the window and just throw out 10 billion dollars.

  6. Mr. Amodei needs to research why France has abandoned their reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. France has researched reprocessing since 1958 and finally concluded it was not feasible.

    Read a complete report here

  7. Blame the moronic constituents who voted for this guy.

    There is NOTHING to discuss! No to Yucca Mountain! No to making our community a dumping ground for America.

    Nevada should NOT act as the dumping ground for nuclear waste!

    Why can't these people get that through their thick skulls? The disadvantages and dangers far outweigh any desperate "I'll take anything" approach.

    Who voted for this guy! Blame the constituents! These people would sell their mother for a quick buck.

  8. dhenry "This hole has to be safer than any of the above ground storage that currently exists. What makes Nevadan's think Las Vegas is so much more precious than the communities that have waste stored behind chain link fences in this country."

    Explain how removing the spent fuel from an active nuclear reactor site makes the site safe. The reactor and unspent fuel remains in a highly secured facility. Scientists have said onsite deep bore holes are a safer and cheaper solution.

    As to your other statement...What makes non-Nevadans think their communities are much more precious than Las Vegas? Nevada has no nuclear reactors and is a net exporter of energy.

  9. Lynn,

    Thank you for the interesting pdf link. After reading through, I would characterize the reprocessing industry as complicated by many factors, only some of which are technical. Projections from the 50's and 60's overestimated demand from uranium-using plants, underestimated oil-use projections and, most importantly, missed the adverse influence the environmental movement would have. I'm not convinced that this study tells us definitively how Yucca should be handled.

    As for your comment to David Henry, although I'm sure he can speak for himself, I understood him to be speaking of the improved military security at Yucca rather than environmental security. The localized sites are more vulnerable to terrorism.

  10. Amodei is the living example of a Mugwump -- one who sits on a fence with his mug facing one direction and his wump facing the other. He is Northern Nevada's problem because Clark County has over 70% of the state's population and could use that voting edge to retaliate against the North for anything he does.