Dean Heller

07/13/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/13/2018 12:12

Heller Statement on House Members’ Congressional Vacation to Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today released the below statement on a taxpayer-funded congressional delegation trip led by Rep. John Shimkus, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, to Yucca Mountain.

Shimkus is the author of the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, H.R.3053, legislation to jumpstart Yucca Mountain and direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to decide whether to approve construction of the waste repository within 30 months. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote in May of 2018, but Heller immediately put a hold on the bill in the U.S. Senate and committed to blocking it at every procedural turn. He also urged a consent-based approach, such as his bipartisan Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Ac t. This legislation permits the construction of a nuclear waste repository only if the Secretary of Energy receives written consent from the governor of the host state, affected local officials, and affected Indian tribes.

'The bill for this trip is the closest that Rep. Shimkus is ever going to get to moving waste to Nevada. Americans shouldn't have to pay for his congressional vacation to Las Vegas. His legislation is going nowhere and despite repeated attempts to fund Yucca Mountain in the House of Representatives, I've killed their efforts each and every time,' said Heller. 'The only purpose that this trip will serve is to allow the congressional delegation to see first-hand the devastating impact that Yucca Mountain would have on Nevada's tourism economy and the 40 million visitors that Las Vegas welcomes each year.'

In addition to the bipartisan approval of the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved $30 million in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to store defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and more than $267.7 million in its FY2019 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to support licensing activities at Yucca Mountain. For the second year in a row, Heller successfully worked to ensure that the funding requested by the Administration to support licensing activities at Yucca Mountain was excluded from the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that passed the U.S. Senate. Earlier this month, Heller thanked Chairman Shelby and Chairman Alexander for not funding Yucca Mountain in the minibus, and he urged them not to fund any activities related to Yucca Mountain in the conference report.

In an April letter to U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Heller expressed his strong opposition to the $120 million request in DOE's budget to revive Yucca Mountain, stating that the failed project has already wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. The letter is available HERE. That same month, Heller expressed his concern to Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein about the $48 million request in NRC's budget for Yucca Mountain, and he encouraged them to instead devote resources to consent-based siting for the storage of nuclear waste. In his letter, Heller cited his correspondence with NRC Chairman Svinicki regarding safety concerns as well as his request for a commitment from the NRC to implement procedural safeguards. The letter is available HERE.

In addition to working with the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to block funding for Yucca Mountain, Heller also successfully ensured that the U.S. Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) excluded the $30 million to store defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. On April 13, 2018, Heller contacted U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and urged him to exclude any language that authorizes funding for Yucca Mountain from the National Defense Authorization Act. Heller wrote Chairman McCain today asking him to maintain that position in the final conference report. The U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the NDAA with $30 million authorized to revive Yucca Mountain on May 24th, 2018.

Background on timeline of Heller's previous work to stop Yucca Mountain from being funded: