Nevada Faces the Opening of Yucca Mountain

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Nevada Faces the Opening of Yucca Mountain


It has been three decades since Congress approved Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel. Over that time, a generation of Nevada’s politicians have fought the opening of this site. Legislation advancing in Congress may finally put this issue to a rest, leaving Nevadans with the prospect of Yucca Mountain finally opening.


In early May, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would re-start the process of moving the nation’s nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. This site was first approved by legislation in 1987, but funding for this project was stopped during the Obama Administration. Currently, spent fuel from nuclear power plants is stored at temporary facilities across the U.S. Yucca Mountain is envisioned as a permanent place to store this waste, buried underground in a geologic formation that is designed to prevent leakage.


Senator Harry Reid was a leading figure in fighting the opening of Yucca Mountain. He not only represented Nevada in the Senate, he also spent many years in Democratic leadership positions in that body. He used this influence to thwart efforts to finalize plans to use Yucca Mountain.


Supporters of Yucca Mountain say that it is a remote facility that has an ideal geologic composition to store nuclear waste safely for millennia. Opponents contend that it will poses huge risks to move nuclear waste from across the U.S. to Nevada, and that this facility is dangerously close to Las Vegas.


Even though Nevada’s House members opposed the recent legislation to move forward with Yucca Mountain’s planning process, the bill passed by a vote of 340-72. The bill garnered the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Nevada’s senators have vowed to do all they can to stop this legislation in the Senate, but it is unclear if they have enough votes to sustain a filibuster.


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