Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today expressed his strong opposition to the Administration’s budget request for $120 million to restart the licensing activities at Yucca Mountain to U.S. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA) ahead of today’s hearing with Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry.

“I am deeply troubled by recent comments made by Secretary Perry stating that the Nevada National Security Test Site could be an option for temporary storage of high-level nuclear waste.  Not only do I believe that this comment is irresponsible, but I also remain concerned about the legality of such actions by the Department.  As I have repeatedly expressed to the Secretary, Nevada will not be forced against its own will to shoulder the burden of housing our nation’s nuclear waste.” Heller wrote.

Yesterday, Heller responded to Secretary Perry’s comments before the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee. During the hearing, Secretary Perry discussed his support for reviving Yucca Mountain as well as a proposal to use the Nevada National Security Test Site as a potential location to temporarily store nuclear waste.  

“The only viable solution to our country’s nuclear waste problem is one that is rooted in consent, and Nevada has said ‘no.’ I stand with Nevada in staunch opposition to Secretary Perry’s comments regarding the Test Site and any attempt to revive Yucca Mountain. Secretary Perry [yesterday] referred to a ‘moral and national security obligation,’ and I believe that fighting for Nevada against Yucca Mountain is mine,” said Heller.

Heller’s full statement for the record is below:

The Honorable Lamar Alexander
Chairman
Senate Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee
Room S128, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510 

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
Senate Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee
Room S128, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510 

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein:

I write today to express my vehement opposition to the Administration’s request for $120 million in the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Fiscal Year 2018 budget to be in part utilized to restart licensing activities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.  I strongly believe that our nation cannot fully move forward with viable sustainable solutions for spent nuclear fuel and defense high-level waste without moving past Yucca Mountain.  The Administration’s request simply perpetuates a decades-long fight that has been strongly opposed by Nevadans from the state, done little to solve our nation’s waste problem, and wasted billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

The Administration purports that this budget request will “address nuclear waste, enhance national security, and reduce future taxpayer burden,” yet in practice, it will do the exact opposite.  Governor Sandoval has made clear the State of Nevada will contest over 200 elements of any license application, which will take years to resolve and cost the federal government billions of dollars.  This is in addition to the DOE’s estimates that an additional $82 billion would be needed to license, litigate, build, operate, decommission, and eventually close Yucca Mountain.  With respect to what has already been spent on the repository that adds up to more than $96 billion for the total system life cycle cost for the project.

It is clear that U.S. taxpayer dollars would be better spent identifying viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it.  In fact in 2012, DOE cost estimates show that all other costs being equal, walking away from Yucca Mountain, and starting with a new repository site in a deep salt bed or a deep shale formation, could save between $12 billion and $27 billion over the life of the repository.  Before Congress spends any more U.S. taxpayer money on Yucca Mountain, I strongly urge you to ask Secretary Perry as he testifies before your subcommittee to explain what the Department has learned about repository costs in its previous studies.  Furthermore, I believe we need new cost studies on geologic disposal in repositories, studies that include the lessons learned from recent progress with repositories in Europe.

Moreover, I am deeply troubled by recent comments made by Secretary Perry stating that the Nevada National Security Test Site could be an option for temporary storage of high-level nuclear waste.  Not only do I believe that this comment is irresponsible, but I also remain concerned about the legality of such actions by the Department.  As I have repeatedly expressed to the Secretary, Nevada will not be forced against its own will to shoulder the burden of housing our nation’s nuclear waste.

The only viable solution to our nation’s long-term nuclear waste problem is one that is rooted in consent.  I stand behind the DOE’s 2005 initiatives regarding consent-based siting as a result of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.  This open process ensures all Americans have a meaningful voice in the process if their community is being considered for a future nuclear waste repository.  I strongly believe that Secretary Perry should focus his efforts on this worthwhile initiative instead of making Nevada our nation’s nuclear waste dump.

I stand with the State of Nevada in staunch opposition to any attempt to restart the repository licensing process, and strongly urge you not to fund the Administration’s request.  Secretary Perry has referred to a “moral and national security obligation” and I believe that fighting for Nevada against Yucca Mountain is mine.  Moreover, I encourage you to devote resources towards DOE’s consent-based siting initiative for the storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.  Thank you for your attention to this important request.

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