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U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Approves Dan Brouillette

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today expressed concern after the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted to advance Dan Brouillette’s nomination for the deputy secretary position at the Department of Energy (DOE), the federal agency that has jurisdiction over the licensing activities at Yucca Mountain. In a letter to Brouillette, Heller asked for clarification of his responses to questions related to Yucca Mountain during a hearing on May 25, 2017 and requested detailed answers to several questions surrounding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository prior to his confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate.

“If confirmed as the Department of Energy’s Deputy Secretary, Dan Brouillette will play a key role in any attempt to restart licensing activities at Yucca Mountain,” said Heller. “I take my role to advise and consent seriously, and that is why I need clarification on his position on Yucca Mountain’s nuclear waste repository, which Nevadans have never consented to and continue to reject. I also requested detailed answers to several questions that will provide an indication of whether or not he would support turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste dump. Prior to any vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm him as the deputy secretary, Nevadans deserve to know exactly where he stands on Yucca Mountain.”  

The letter reads in full:

Mr. Dan Brouillette
United States Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW,
Washington, DC 20585 

Dear Mr. Brouillette:

As the Senior Senator from Nevada nothing is more important to me than the safety of Nevadans.  That is why I am writing to you today concerning an issue that is important to the safety, security and economic well-being of my home state of Nevada, namely Yucca Mountain.

If confirmed as the Department of Energy’s Deputy Secretary you will play key role in any attempts to restart licensing activities in Yucca Mountain as well as implementing past recommendations of the Department concerning the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radio-active waste.  I remain extremely concerned about the actions of this Administration and Secretary Perry supportive of restarting the licensing process without looking at all viable options.  Not only do I believe this is short-sighted but also contradictory to assurances the Secretary made to me during his confirmation process.

While I strongly believe that it is in the best interest of our nation that we develop a program to dispose of and store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, Yucca Mountain is not the solution.  It is a flawed site both for public safety and economic reasons.  Moreover, I do not believe that any state – especially one that does not have any nuclear power plants of its own – be forced to shoulder our nation’s nuclear waste despite its will.  This is why I have authored bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act, to allow for the construction of a nuclear waste repository only if the Secretary of Energy has secured written consent from the governor of the host state, affected units of local government, and affected Indian tribes. 

My proposal is consistent with the consent-based siting initiative to site waste storage and disposal facilities initiated by the Department of Energy in late 2015.  This open process ensures that a state has a meaningful voice in the process and that no state will be forced to accept nuclear waste against its own will.  Identifying communities that are willing hosts for long-term repositories, rather than forcing it upon states that have outright opposed such a site for decades, is the only viable solution to our nation’s nuclear waste problem.   

In your confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on May 25, 2017, you briefly discussed Yucca Mountain.  I respectfully would seek clarity on your responses that you offered to the committee prior to any vote in the Senate on your confirmation.  Thus, I ask that you provide detailed answers to the following questions by no later than June 13, 2017.

1)      Do you believe that Yucca Mountain is a viable, safe option for the long-term storage of our nation’s nuclear fuel and high-level radio-active waste?

2)      Do you support the consent-based siting approach for selecting nuclear waste storage and disposal sites, as developed over the past two years by DOE?

3)      Do you support my legislation, the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act, which would require consent of the host state and local government, and any affected Indian tribe, before repository construction?

4)      Do you believe that states should be forced to store high-level nuclear waste against their own will?

5)      Do you support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future for restructuring the nuclear waste program, including taking the program out of DOE?

6)      Do you believe that the radiological and social impacts of nuclear waste transportation, identified by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, need to be addressed before any shipments to an interim storage facility or a geologic repository?

7)      Are you aware that DOE’s 2008 EIS, part of the license application, relies upon highway and rail routes through the Las Vegas Valley for shipments to Yucca Mountain?

8)      Do you support the Department’s 2016 Draft Plan for a Defense Waste Repository?

9)      Are you aware that Yucca Mountain is located in a fractured geologic environment, above an aquifer, and is in an area of moderate to high seismic activity and potential future volcanic activity?

I appreciate your attention to this matter and I look forward to receiving your responses. 

Kind regards, 

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