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WASHINGTON – In a speech delivered on the U.S. Senate floor, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today made it clear to his colleagues that he will block legislation advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives to jumpstart Yucca Mountain. Earlier today, the U.S. House in a bipartisan vote approved the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, H.R.3053. Watch the clip HERE.

“My state refuses to serve as our nation’s nuclear waste dump. That’s why I am proud to say that because of my leadership, the Senate has repeatedly refused to pass a law funding the high-level nuclear waste repository, a position that was most recently confirmed in the most recent omnibus spending measure. Because of my current work as Nevada’s senior senator and my bipartisan work with the former Senate Majority Leader, Yucca Mountain remains dead. It’s really as simple as that,” said Heller on the Senate floor. “But despite Yucca’s clear and unquestionable death long ago, some of our friends on the other side of the Capitol continue to waste their time attempting to bring back to life this ill-conceived and fiscally irresponsible plan. Their efforts keep alive a long-standing fight over states’ rights and distract us from the real task at hand, which is finding a viable long-term nuclear waste storage solution that meets the needs of the American people.”


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Heller’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President,

I rise today to reiterate my strong opposition to the House of Representatives’ efforts to restart licensing activities at Yucca Mountain, and in particular the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, which passed the House earlier today.

This bill, which is a complete and total waste of taxpayer dollars, is dead on arrival in the Senate.

Not only will I place a hold on the bill now that it has passed the House, I will also object to the motion to proceed to the bill. And this vote today proves my point: I am the only person in D.C. standing between a pristine Nevada or a Nevada dripping with Nuclear Waste.

Just as I have in the past, I will continue to serve as a roadblock to every effort to make Nevada our nation’s nuclear waste dump.

Despite the House of Representatives’ repeated attempts to revive the failed project, I have been able to ensure that not a single dollar has been appropriated to restart licensing activities at Yucca Mountain. This vote is nothing but a failed exercise because as long as I am in the Senate, Yucca Mountain is dead. It is literally that simple.

As I have previously said to you, Mr. President, under my watch, I will not let one more hard-earned taxpayer dollar go toward the failed Yucca Mountain project.

My state refuses to serve as our nation’s nuclear waste dump.

That’s why I am proud to say that because of my leadership, the Senate has repeatedly refused to pass a law funding the high-level nuclear waste repository, a position that was most recently confirmed in the most recent omnibus spending measure.

Because of my current work as Nevada’s senior senator and my bipartisan work with the former Senate Majority Leader, Yucca Mountain remains dead. It’s really as simple as that.

But despite Yucca’s clear and unquestionable death long ago, some of our friends on the other side of the Capitol continue to waste their time attempting to bring back to life this ill-conceived and fiscally irresponsible plan.

Their efforts keep alive a long-standing fight over states’ rights and distract us from the real task at hand, which is finding a viable long-term nuclear waste storage solution that meets the needs of the American people.

I’ll be the first person to recognize the important role nuclear power plays in a stable and secure all-of-the-above energy strategy, and that with nuclear energy comes the need to properly store spent nuclear fuel.

But I firmly believe our nation cannot progress toward achieving viable and sustainable storage solutions for spent nuclear fuel and defense high-level waste without first abandoning Yucca Mountain.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t come to the table to discuss our nation’s nuclear waste storage needs. We should; I would.

But I also believe that states should have a say in the matter, and that’s why, in my opinion, consent-based siting presents the only viable path forward on this issue. Consent-based siting offers means of addressing our nation’s high-level nuclear waste problem while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of states to object to becoming nuclear waste dumps.

The Yucca Mountain proposal, however, represents the exact opposite of consent; it is a unilaterally imposed federal mandate that goes against the will of the people that it directly affects.

Now you have heard me, Mr. President, raise the question that many Nevadans are thinking: Why should a state without a single nuclear power plant of its own be forced against its will to house all of our nation’s nuclear waste? This question has never been answered.

And I think the honest answer is that it shouldn’t.

Beyond the violation of state sovereignty and the disregard for the will of the local population, the Yucca Mountain proposal poses significant health and safety risks and potentially catastrophic financial risks that must be addressed before – and not after – the proposal moves forward should it move forward at all.

You may be asking yourself, Mr. President: What are some of these risks?

Well, for one, Yucca Mountain is located just 90 miles from the world’s premier tourist, convention, and entertainment destination in Las Vegas, Nevada. Last year, Las Vegas welcomed nearly 43 million visitors.

Over the past decade, the Greater Las Vegas area has been one of the fastest growing in the U.S. with a population that now exceeds 2.1 million people, according to an estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Any issues with the transportation of nuclear waste to the site, or issues with storage there, would bring devastating consequences to the Las Vegas, Nevada, and national economies.

Issues that would inevitably result from shipping 9,495 rail casks in 2,800 trains and 2,650 trucks hauling one cask each to Yucca Mountain over 50 years. These shipments would use 22,000 miles of railways and 7,000 miles of highways and cross over 44 states.

To date, however, Nevadans have not received sufficient assurances from the Department of Energy or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that their concerns about these risks will receive the procedural due process and thoughtful consideration they are owed under existing law.

In fact, in my recent correspondence with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I continue to stress to the Commission the importance of procedural safeguards, like local hearings and local adjudication, to ensure parties directly affected by the proposal have the opportunity to air their concerns and have them considered in an open and reasonably close forum.

It’s because of these and other unresolved concerns that I continue to stand with the State of Nevada in its strong opposition to restarting licensing activities at the Yucca Mountain repository.

Rather than forcing the State of Nevada to accept nuclear waste at a scientifically unsound site, 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. Finding alternatives is the commonsense path forward, as well as the fiscally responsible decision.

The federal government should not waste another taxpayer dollar on Yucca Mountain – waste that already amounts to nearly $15 billion.

According to Department of Energy estimates, an additional $82 billion would be needed to license, construct, and operate Yucca Mountain through closure, bringing the total system life cycle cost for the project to around $97 billion, an amount that would be 15 to 20 percent higher in today’s dollars.

So, it’s clear that instead of throwing more taxpayer money at a failed proposal, which is exactly what the House of Representatives’ Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act does, we should be working on a real long-term solution rooted in consent-based siting.

I urge my colleagues, as we continue the budget and appropriations process for the 2019 fiscal year, to focus on further implementing the Department of Energy’s consent-based siting process. 

And I stand ready to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this issue and am confident that together we can find a solution to this problem once and for all.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.