Southern Illinois Congressman John Shimkus wants to resurrect the massive project to move the nation’s spent nuclear fuel to a Nevada mountain.
Shimkus, a Republican who chairs the committee exploring the reopening of the project to store the country’s nuclear waste in the Yucca mountain range, 50 miles west of Las Vegas, says the government has the money and needs to follow through.
“Ratepayers have given the [Department of Energy] over $40 billion to pay for this multi-generational capital infrastructure project, and yet the federal government has not fulfilled its obligation,” he told the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment this week in Washington.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nevada, told the committee that the nation better be ready for a fight if they think they can dump their nuclear waste in his district.
“To Nevadans, it seems like the other people are just trying to pawn off their problems by dumping their nuclear waste in our beloved state,” he said. “This just feels like deja vu and is reminiscent of the passage of the 1987 law often correctly referred to as the ‘screw Nevada bill.'”
But politicians on a local level see the project as a generational job-creating project that the scientific community has deemed safe for hundreds of years.
“If it’s safe, who’d say no to another Hoover Dam project?” asked Dan Schinhofen, Chair of the Nye County Board of Commissioners. He said constituents of his county lost more than 2,500 jobs when President Barack Obama and then Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, shut the project down.
“This is a national security issue. This isn’t a states’ rights issue,” Schinhofen said. “I’m disappointed that our federal delegation would choose political science over nuclear science.”
In the years that the program has sat dormant, ratepayers in Illinois have paid more than $5 billion into a fund meant to complete the Yucca Mountain facility. The Department of Energy is responsible for managing nuclear waste at 121 sites in 39 states.
Additionally, nuclear plant operators across the country have been suing the federal government to pay for the cost of temporarily storing the spent fuel rods, collecting more than $6 billion in settlements. The projected cost of settlements over the next decade is projected at $24 billion.
“The cost of inaction is very tremendous,” said Anthony O’Donnell, Chairman of Nuclear Issues Subcommittee, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
Shimkus’ bill to move the project forward has yet to be introduced.