White House

Trump administration to revive Yucca Mountain nuclear waste plan

Strategy Room: Brad Bauman and Brian Morgenstern weigh in on the opposition to the newly revived plan to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain

 

Critics of the Trump administration’s plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada dismissed the initiative as "naïve" and "a token of affection" to the nuclear industry.

President Trump’s 2018 budget provides $120 million to restart licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, as well as to initiate a “robust interim storage program,” to safely store nuclear waste for 10,000 years.

Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site has languished for three decades because of opposition from both environmentalists and liberal politicians, like former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

But in 1982, Congress made a legally binding pledge that the U.S. government was responsible for disposing of the radioactive material that can take tens of thousands of years to degrade. Five years later, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and determined Yucca Mountain as the lone repository for high-level nuclear waste.

According to a 2011 Government Accountability Office estimate, since 1987 the federal government has dumped $15 billion into developing the Nevada waste site.

In 2010, after major opposition from Reid, the Obama administration cut funding for the project early in the president’s first term and, in 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed the shutdown of the project citing “budgetary limitations” from Congress.

Now the Trump administration plans to resuscitate the project.

According to the president’s budget proposal, the investments are said to accelerate progress on fulfilling the federal government’s obligations to “address nuclear waste, enhance national security and reduce future taxpayer burden.”

“We’re approaching a third decade of federal abdication when it comes to the appropriate disposition of used nuclear fuel -- there are signs that the new administration wants to end the stalemate, but we need resolve from both branches of government,” Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman John Keeley told Fox News. “The nuclear industry is committed to working with Congress and the administration to put the used fuel management program back on its feet.

But Fox News contributor and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is a strong opponent of the plan. He stopped a nuclear dump in Ohio in 1995, and did extensive work on nuclear power issues when chairman of a House subcommittee on domestic policy. And Kucinich told Fox News that President Trump’s proposed $120 million wouldn’t even cover the cost of the paperwork in arranging Yucca Mountain.

“The president, being a very famous developer, should know that a nuclear waste depository is the opposite of development -- no one wants to be anywhere near it,” Kucinich told Fox News.

The White House did not have any further comment, other than the initial proposal for Yucca Mountain.

“This is just a token of affection from the president to the nuclear industry, which will have very little impact on whether or not a nuclear dump is cited in Nevada,” Kucinich said.

Nevada residents have strongly resisted the project.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who took Reid’s Senate seat upon his retirement last year, told Fox News that she will continue to “fight against this” and any other attempt to “revive this reckless project.”

“Trump’s attempt to revive Yucca Mountain is naive and would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money,” Cortez Masto said, quoting a report that estimated licensing hearings alone would cost more than $1.6 billion. “Yucca Mountain is nothing more than a hole in the ground and will never be a viable solution for dealing with nuclear waste -- Nevadans know this and they have been clear they do not want a nuclear dumping site in their backyard.”

Kelley told Fox News that until the government meets its “legal obligation to accept the fuel,” the industry will continue to “safely and securely” store the waste at its “99 operating reactors located at 61 sites in 30 states.” 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.