Congress should fund the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada this year, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), now officially the Department of Energy’s head Senate appropriator in the 116th Congress, said Wednesday.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-conversation=”none” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This year, we should resolve the more than 30 year stalemate over how to dispose of used nuclear fuel. I support proceeding on all fronts: funding Yucca Mountain, as well as storing used nuclear fuel at interim storage sites and at private facilities.</p>— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) <a href=”https://twitter.com/SenAlexander/status/1083126073603354625?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 9, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Alexander was elected chair of the Senate Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee for the new Congress by his GOP colleagues Wednesday. Democrats on the panel again installed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as the subcommittee’s ranking member.
The energy and water development subcommittee writes the Senate appropriations bills that fund the entire DOE, including active and former nuclear-weapon sites, and the Office of Nuclear Energy that would oversee the Donald Trump administration’s struggling effort to restart the department’s effort to license Yucca Mountain as a permanent waste repository. The panel also funds the the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which would grant the license.
Alexander did not go to bat for Yucca Mountain in the 115th Congress, when the project still faced opposition from his side of the aisle by way of since-unseated Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
Alexander has often signaled a willingness to work together with Feinstein on civilian nuclear waste disposal, but the bipartisan duo has yet to muscle any Yucca funding through the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
The situation particularly stung some Yucca proponents in the first half of President Donald Trump’s first term, when a GOP-controlled government twice failed to deliver more than $100 million in annual Yucca funding, which the administration sought and the House voted to provide.
While Heller lost his seat in November to then-Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Democrats now control the House of Representatives. Despite lining up overwhelmingly in the last Congress to help pass a Yucca policy bill from Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), House Democrats have displayed less urgency to actually provide an appropriation for the proposed disposal site.