The Donald Trump administration on Monday stuck to its guns about turning Nevada’s Yucca Mountain into a permanent nuclear waste repository, requested almost $170 million in fiscal 2019 for the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to work on the licensing the facility.
The total 2019 request is just over 10 percent higher than the 2018 proposal for Yucca Mountain and covers $120 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) and $47 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): the independent federal regulator of civilian nuclear waste.
By the numbers, that’s the same Yucca budget the White House proposed for DOE last year. Proposed NRC funding, on the other hand, is more than half again higher than what the White House proposed for 2018.
DOE and the NRC both would use the funds to “address the legal issues on licensing,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “We have a legal and a moral responsibility to deal with that,” Perry said.
The House last year approved even dime of the administration request for the budget year that began on Oct. 1, 2017. Senate appropriators, on the other hand, proposed a 2018 budget that included none of the money Trump requested for the permanent nuclear-waste disposal site. Widely reported Capitol Hill gossip holds that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not permit Yucca funding to come to a vote in the Senate while Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — who opposes the project — is up for re-election. A vote might put Heller in the politically difficult position of holding up the whole federal budget to stop Yucca.
“Under my leadership Congress has not appropriated funding for licensing activities at Yucca Mountain as requested in the last budget, and I’m going to continue to fight to make sure that this project doesn’t see the light of day,” Heller wrote Monday in a statement on his website.