With Reid gone, waste site in Ne­vada may get another look.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLFGANG

The re­tire­ment of Sen. Harry Reid may give new life to a project he’s made a ca­reer out of op­pos­ing.

For years, the Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader and Ne­vada Demo­crat has been the most vo­cal op­po­nent of a plan to store nu­clear waste at Yucca Moun­tain, a re­mote site less than 100 miles north­west of Las Ve­gas. An­a­lysts say Mr. Reid’s staunch po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion to the pro­posal partly led to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to pull the plug on Yucca Moun­tain in 2011.

But the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port­edly wants to give the site another look, and they’ll no longer have to deal with the po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful Mr. Reid, who has served in the Se­nate since 1987 and been his party’s leader in the cham­ber since 2005.

Even diehard op­po­nents of the Yucca Moun­tain pro­posal con­cede that the de­bate around the fa­cil­ity had be­come al­most en­tirely about Mr. Reid and his heavy-handed op­po­si­tion, cre­at­ing a nar­ra­tive that he was the sole rea­son the project never came to fruition.

“The great irony here is that be­cause Sen. Reid has been so suc­cess­ful in us­ing his knowl­edge of the Se­nate rules, pro­ce­dures, and pow­ers to hob­ble the Depart­ment of En­ergy’s pro­gram, there are lots of peo­ple who have come to the rea­son­able con­clu­sion that the prob­lem with Yucca Moun­tain is Harry Reid,” said Robert Hal­stead, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ne­vada Agency for Nu­clear Projects.

Mr. Hal­stead ar­gues that there are other prob­lems with the pro­posal.

He says it’s too ex­pen­sive — the cost at the be­gin­ning of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was es­ti­mated at nearly $100 bil­lion — and that it’s sim­ply the wrong place to store the roughly 77,000 tons of used fuel from nu­clear power re­ac­tors. That fuel is cur­rently stored on site at nu­clear power fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try, de­fy­ing a 1982 fed­eral law that calls on the gov­ern­ment to find a per­ma­nent, safe lo­ca­tion.

Other Ne­vada po­lit­i­cal fig­ures are hop­ing to step in and fill the im­mense power gap cre­ated by Mr. Reid’s de­par­ture, though none have the clout of the out­go­ing mi­nor­ity leader.

“We’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to stop this,” Sen. Dean Heller, Ne­vada Repub­li­can, said over the sum­mer, con­ced­ing that he ex­pects a re­newed push with Mr. Reid out of the way.

But other law­mak­ers re­main com­mit­ted to Yucca. Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on En­ergy and Water De­vel­op­ment, backs the pro­posal and has urged fel­low law­mak­ers to move for­ward both on tem­po­rary so­lu­tions and a more per­ma­nent fix in the form of Yucca Moun­tain.

“We need to move on all tracks at the same time to solve the nu­clear waste stale­mate,” he said at a con­gres­sional hear­ing this fall.

The project, orig­i­nally ap­proved by Congress in 2002, was scrapped by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2011. That de­ci­sion came de­spite years of re­search and bil­lions of dol­lars al­lo­cated to the pro­posal.

Soon af­ter the White House seem­ingly killed Yucca, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice slammed the move as purely po­lit­i­cal, and there’s long been spec­u­la­tion that Mr. Reid’s po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing was the main rea­son the project was halted.

With Mr. Reid gone, and Repub­li­cans in con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress and the White House, an­a­lysts say the GOP could re­vive the project, first by ap­pro­pri­at­ing money for the nec­es­sary li­cens­ing pro­cesses.

“Harry Reid con­trolled the purse strings … Get­ting Harry out of the way to get at least a chance for a nor­mal ap­pro­pri­a­tions process [in­clud­ing money for Yucca Moun­tain] would be very help­ful,” said Gary Lan­thrum, an en­gi­neer who worked for over a decade at the Depart­ment of En­ergy.

Even with Mr. Reid’s de­par­ture, he con­tin­ued, there are still sig­nif­i­cant road­blocks.

Mr. Lan­thrum es­ti­mated the con­struc­tion li­cens­ing process alone would take at least three years, pos­si­bly longer given the hard-line op­po­si­tion from stake­hold­ers in Ne­vada and else­where.


The re­tire­ment of Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, may re­vive plans for nu­clear waste stor­age in his state’s Yucca Moun­tain.


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