Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

Currently: 87° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

The Policy Racket

What vast support for Yucca amendment in House could mean for Nevada

Image

File photo

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

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Nevada's House delegation stood firm against an appropriations bill that would pump $35 million toward the Yucca Mountain project Wednesday, registering its disapproval of the bid to revive the waste dump even as the bill passed the House with a strong majority.

The final vote on the annual Energy and Water appropriations bill was 255 to 165. But far more striking was the 326 to 81 vote on an amendment, presented by Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois to push $10 million toward the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the instruction that it be used to press forward with the Yucca Mountain licensing process.

The NRC’s decision to stop that process under outgoing Chairman Gregory Jaczko is the subject of a federal appeals court process in the District of Columbia. Jaczko had argued for the past few fiscal cycles that when Congress zeroed-out Yucca funding, it clipped the NRC’s ability to proceed with licensing as well; supporters of the waste dump who brought the initial lawsuit argue the NRC is obligated to spend every last bit of the $10.4 million they have left over from previous appropriations until they can claim the licensing process is dead.

The $10 million, and the $35 million to go to the Yucca site, are symbolic drops in the bucket for a project that’s expected to run up a final price tag of $90 billion or more.

But the vote counts — especially on Shimkus’ amendment — are indicative of how very much support remains in Congress, in both parties, for going ahead with the Yucca project.

It won’t mean anything for this year, as Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is expected to vigorously block any efforts to work Yucca funding into a final appropriations bill, as he does every year. The Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill does not include funding for the Yucca Mountain waste facility, and leaders on the topic — including Appropriations Energy and Water Development subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Energy and Public Works Chairman Jeff Bingaman are working on legislation to target volunteer host states for a nuclear deposit site, as per the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Waste, issued in early this year.

It suggests, however, that Nevada lawmakers are in for a long and potentially losing battle should Reid and those sympathetic to his cause on Yucca Mountain fail to hold onto political influence after the election.

“This continues to show House support for completion of the Yucca Mountain review process within [the] NRC,” Shimkus said.

Votes against the bill and amendment were expected from Reps. Shelley Berkley and Joe Heck, who have opposed the legislation in past years; and reinforced the nuance in Rep. Mark Amodei’s argument — he remains in favor of funding the site, potentially as a research facility for nuclear waste, but is opposed to the idea of turning it into a waste dump, as the House appropriations bill seeks to do.

Heck was the only one of the trio to put out a statement after the vote.

“I will not cast a vote in favor of legislation that moves to make Nevada the country’s nuclear waste dump,” Heck said. “While there are important provisions in the bill, the safety and environmental health of my constituents and the state of Nevada come first.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 13 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. "...the safety and environmental health of my constituents and the state of Nevada come first".

    "...keeping my constituents votes and my reelection in 2012 come first".

    One of the above is an actual "quote" from Joe Heck. The other is what he's REALLY thinking. It's an election year, after all.

  2. Nevada doesn't need any new jobs so take it away.

  3. Label me NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) all you want, I could care less, but the Yucca Mountain Project will not happen. As a proud citizen of Southern Nevada, there is absolutely no way I would ever welcome the most dangerous substance known to mankind being housed here not for a short term, but forever.

    I will always (and I hope others do also) hold our political leaders here in Nevada feet to the fire to stand up for us on this. And if they don't, they clearly indicate their total, complete and abject political suicide. The overwhelming majority of Southern Nevadas do not want YMP.

    Politicians from other States seem to want to shove off their nuclear garbage on us all the time. And they make up dumb, lame excuses for why we should take their nuclear trash.

    I make a promise that I will fight them bastards tooth and nail on this YMP issue. And I know a lot of other people who live here feel that way too.

    What I'm saying is that WE control Nevada. Not other politicians from other States. WE make our own decisions about this issue. No one else. The way they keep trying to pound it down our throats, I'm starting to think we live in Russia around 1950s with Stalin dictator type tactics. And this is America!

    We don't want it here. Take it somewhere else. You cannot and will not shove this off on us.

    What really gets me about this whole debacle is the fact that they are all telling us this is a good thing, it will ensure economic tranquility, more jobs, prestigious, blah blah blah woof woof woof.

    Well, if it's supposed to be such a great thing, how come other States are not lining up to take nuclear garbage?

    I can answer that. THEY DON'T WANT IT.

    Neither do we.

    Bury it in Shimkus' backyard in Illinois and let him charge people admission to look at it, for all I care.....

  4. Much of the test and measurement equipment is in the process of being scrapped. It would take millions just to purchase new replacements. Little of this money would go to productive work.

    Too much of the cash would go to six figure management types that specialize in writing work plans, transportation plans, paid travel, handling plans etc. that will never be carried out. $35 million is just beer and cigarette money to the guzzlers of defense money. The public needs schools and social services, not paper pushers in desert holes.

  5. Send all high level radioactive waste to NEW MEXICO! The good folks over at the Los Alamos Laboratories are well equipped and welcome the opportunity to store and secure nuclear waste.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  6. Well, the chain link storage facilities around this countryside are a great alternative. Looks nice, are completely safe, and we have no wind patterns just in case. NO.
    It is as if there were never Scientist at that site, assuring the safety of what can and will happen there. It is the same old thing, fear mongering. Do you know where it is being stored right now? It is only a political thing. NOTHING more. For years we have had capsules that we can re-enter this earths atmosphere with people in them, and they don't crack open, why can't we put other stuff in them? Risks are "sold"..look at your cell phone and brain cancer, look at your car and air bags, drinkers, text and talkers, old people, come on, the risks we take everyday. I am willing.

  7. I hear people argue there has never been an accident transporting waste; therefore they conclude it is safe.

    Well there has never been an accident at storage pools onsite; therefore it must be safe, right? Same logic.

    The truth is high level nuclear waste is dangerous. The reason other communities want it moved, it's not safe. They realize an accident will happen sooner or later and prefer it happens 90 miles away from Las Vegas.

    What really gets me is all this talk about state's rights coming from the Republicans. Just a lot of hot air, action speaks louder than words. Their actions prove they could care less about state's rights.

  8. rusty57: "it's not likely the cannisters carrying the waste are going to break open and spill all over the neighborhood."

    It wasn't likely that an earthquake followed by a tsunami would cause two reactors to meltdown in Japan.

    It wasn't likely that an offshore oil rig could spill millions of barrels of oil into the ocean for months.

    It wasn't likely that an airline would be used as a guided missile.

    If the canisters are as ultra-safe as advertised; then why not use the canisters onsite and avoid the huge additional costs and risks of shipping and building a repository?

  9. A simple no-brainer:
    As long as Senator Reid is alive there will never be a nuke dump in Nevada.
    End of subject.

    Another sterling example of the bimbo republicans in congress who would rather push a nonstarter than write any meaningful legislation to help the unemployed. LOL

  10. Indeed Summer, the Chicken Littles are roosting and crowing again (Whaaa whaaa whaaa)... I can't wait for the YMP to start back up again!!! Its-a-comin'!!! Don't y'all worry 'bout that!!! If Reid didn't have his Puppet Jaczko as the Chairman of the NRC the Safety Evaluation Report would have been issued already and construction would have commenced...

    Folks, get over it!!! IT IS THE LAW of the United States to build it at Yucca Mountain. NV is more than 80% federal land... Public opinion DOES NOT MATTER as this is a matter of National Secuity and provides for the Common Defense of our country.

    Reid is a fool and a tool... He's also throwing away all those jobs and about $400 Million a year in revenue to Las Vegas... I can't wait for him to lose his senate majority seat this fall... : )

  11. "'I will not cast a vote in favor of legislation that moves to make Nevada the country's nuclear waste dump,' Heck said. 'While there are important provisions in the bill, the safety and environmental health of my constituents and the state of Nevada come first.'"

    I read this statement and laughed.

    It seems as if the esteemed Representative Heck hopes everyone has amnesia.

    First, Heck was all for Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) to happen.

    Then, when there was a backlash from his constituents, he backtracked.

    Then, his next position that YMP should not open for business, but parts of it opened only for research.

    Then, on the horizon comes the election. Heck, being the totally rotten and transparent politician he is, sees which way the winds are blowing. And if he keeps going with that position, nobody will vote for him, nor will they give him campaign money.

    Now, here's Joe "Pay Per View" Heck's latest position: He mirrors Senator Reid and has called for YMP not to happen.

    The whole lesson here is not the fact that Heck lies. After all, he's a loyal and devoted Tea/Republican. It is their God given right to lie like a rug.

    The issue here is that Heck will flip flop back and sell out Nevada.

    I don't trust him. Nor should any of his constituents. Because he's not consistent on this issue at all.

    This tells me deep down in his very decrepit soul that he wants to support Rep. Shimkus and get in good with the other Tea/Republicans, thereby elevating his stature in the House. THAT is the most likely scenario. The guy is two faced.

    He will follow only his only political livelihood, and not Southern Nevada's. His whole voting record reflects this is the case. Not on just one issue, but EVERYTHING.

    Get rid of Heck, CD3. You deserve better. If you don't, I wouldn't be surprised if he opens a hot dog stand at YMP.

    "Here yee, here yee! Get yer yellow cake dogs hot off the grill right here!"

  12. As usual...

    NO means yes to R's who hear only the voices they choose to listen to.

    As usual...
    M.O.N.E.Y. is the ONLY THING R's think about.
    "WHAT? It'll make MONEY??? do it!!!"

  13. "The most dangerous substance known to mankind," someone wrote. This is a reference to plutonium in the waste. I have known people seriously contaminated with that material where they worked with very large amounts of it, who were washed and given chelating medications to take this metal out of their bodies. They were fine afterward. The most dangerous substances known to humans are chemical weapons, once contacted by or inhaling a nerve gas, you are dead.
    Someone wrote that Los Alamos in New Mexico wants to store waste. Los Alamos is racing to comply with an agreement with the State to get its transuranic (mostly plutonium) nuclear waste off its site and into the underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP, near Carlsbad, a deep geologic repository that has been operated safely by DOE for more than 13 years for defense-related transuranic waste.
    WIPP's safety record is making the city and region, and even the state, say to DOE (in a letter from the Governor): give us other types of waste like Greater-Than-Class-C low level waste and do some studies that will give us some comfort that high-level waste can be disposed in this medium.
    That letter was the first of at least 6 letters from different states asking DOE to come look at their salt or clay/shale rock. A 7th letter from Nye County was followed by a letter from the State saying Nye County does not speak for this state and does not want Yucca. My point is that there is now multi-state interest in hosting a repository.
    Is it the economic downturn? I think it is mainly the Blue Ribbon Commission report which extolled the virtues of the WIPP geologic repository as a model for the nation and discussed its local popularity. There is local-regional work in progress to assure that if and when there is a new national repository, it will be in this region.
    There was also a claim that Sweden and Switzerland are pursuing repositories but did not yet have a site selected. True of Switzerland. But Finland, Sweden, and France have identified sites, and Finland is in licensing and Sweden and France are preparing for licensing. Very good science and engineering support their choices for repository settings and engineered systems. The US regulators and DOE are paying attention to and will learn from their licensing processes.
    A post suggested that in 35-40 years we will have a better idea of what to do. The better idea, in my opinion, was pronounced by the National Academy of Sciences in the 1960s, more than half a century ago, when they said to go to salt for a repository because of its ability to heal itself and conduct heat away from the heat-producing containers. Their second choice was clay/shale. The repository near Carlsbad is in salt, laid down before the time of dinosaurs. Local, regional and state leaders have volunteered that it be looked at for other waste types. The opportunity is there for the US, knocking, as it were ....