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December 25, 2014

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Nevada lawmakers slapped down on votes on state’s nuclear interests

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

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

The House of Representatives on Wednesday delivered two more defeats to the Nevada delegation’s attempts to safeguard the state’s nuclear interests.

The House voted to kill amendments to help close down the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site and increase security at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site.

The House voted 337 to 87 against a measure by Nevada Rep. Dina Titus to strip language from the House’s energy and water appropriations bill that prevents the government from using any federal funds to close Yucca or for the nuclear waste dump siting process.

Titus described her amendment as an effort to “remove misguided language...that injects politics into a very serious and consequential debate.”

“[I’m] protecting the fiduciary interest of the American taxpayer and preserving the safety of my constituents,” Titus said.

The House also voted 338 to 86 against an amendment from Nevada Rep. Joe Heck to divert $16 million from a fund that pays for the protection and dismantling of nuclear materials abroad and put it toward building a security perimeter around the Nevada Nuclear Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site.

“We should not neglect priorities to secure nuclear materials on our own soil while supplying $20 million in excess of what was requested to secure nuclear materials on foreign soil,” Heck said. “Instead, use that money to secure our own facilities containing nuclear materials.”

Leading Energy appropriators in both parties urged their colleagues to vote against Heck’s proposal.

“While the amendment is a modest one...I cannot support further cuts in this program,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, the ranking member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

“We can’t predict the consequences of this in terms of what we face globally to remove this material,” Kaptur said. “There are some unfriendly actors on the face of this earth.”

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said, “We need to upgrade our security systems, but I have concerns that taking on a third project in 2014 will lead to more problems.”

Frelinghuysen cited errors that had been made with security upgrades underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Nevada’s security upgrade was tentatively scheduled to start next year.

“I believe this is the most prudent path forward,” Frelinghuysen said.

On Tuesday night, the House voted 335 to 81 against another Heck amendment to divert $25 million intended to restart the siting process for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and direct the funds toward researching nuclear reprocessing options.

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