WASHINGTON, DC – Nuclear power is safe, reliable, and emissions-free. Republicans and Democrats agree nuclear power must be part of any plan to address climate change. To make progress on nuclear power – and to capitalize on the environmental, economic, and geopolitical benefits – we need a permanent place to put nuclear waste.
Science and the law say the safest location for a permanent repository is Yucca Mountain. But that’s not enough for Nancy Pelosi.
In the 115th Congress, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) led the passage of H.R. 3053, which would have solidified Yucca Mountain as the cornerstone of America’s nuclear waste disposal. That bill passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 340-72. Nancy Pelosi voted against it.
This Congress, Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and John Shimkus introduced H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. The legislation is similar to H.R. 3053 from the 115th Congress, once again following the science on Yucca Mountain. And, once again, Pelosi is “committed to blocking funding for Yucca and she’s held to it.”
For 121 communities in 39 states, spent nuclear fuel presents a persistent threat. Across the map, Americans are waiting on Congress to fulfill a 35-year-old promise to get nuclear waste out of their communities and into Yucca Mountain.
Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), Nancy Pelosi is concerned about a different kind of map, and continues to put politics above policies that promote American energy, help address climate change risks, and protect our local communities.
‘It’s all about protecting seats’: House politics pose new challenge for Yucca
The political opposition that kept the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository on ice for years in the Senate has shifted now to the House, where Democrats are wary of putting two hard-won Nevada congressional seats at risk.
Legislation to advance the project to build a permanent home for nuclear waste has been stalled for three decades largely because leaders from both parties have feared a backlash from voters in Nevada, who overwhelmingly oppose developing the project inside the mountain that lies 100 miles to the northwest of Las Vegas.
“It’s all about protecting seats in Nevada,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told POLITICO. “Unless we make Nevada a territory, they’re always going to have two senators and several representatives and somebody’s going to always be trying to protect somebody, so that makes it tough.”
Now, after Democrats clawed their way to the House majority in 2018, thanks in part to keeping Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Rep. Susie Lee‘s (D-Nev.) seats in their column, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has emerged as one of the main roadblocks.
An amendment to fund the project failed to clear the House Appropriations Committee last month when 11 Democrats reversed their positions from last year to oppose it — a defeat that lawmakers attributed to the Nevada delegation’s winning Pelosi’s backing.
Pelosi’s office said in a statement that she “committed to blocking funding for Yucca and she’s held to it.”
A bill, H.R. 3053 (115), restarting the funding for the Yucca permitting process passed the House last year by A 340 to 72 bipartisan vote. But this year,Titus and the Nevada delegation met with Pelosi in advance of the Appropriations process and enlisted her to block funding from this year’s Energy and Water bill, according to a senior Democratic aide. They homed in on Democrats they deemed as willing to flip, and the amendment from Simpson to restart the licensing process failed.
“You saw the speaker’s power — she said, ‘No,'” said a nuclear industry source. “It’s political, it’s not technical at this point.”
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