Trump, in Reversal, Opposes Nevada Yucca Nuclear Waste Dump

Ari Natter and Josh Wingrove

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump is reversing course on his plan to construct a nuclear waste dump in Nevada, a key swing state where residents have bitterly opposed the project.

While Trump’s previous budgets have included funding for developing the nuclear repository about 90 miles south of Las Vegas, the spending blueprint to be released next week will include no money for licensing the project, two senior administration officials said.

“Nevada, I hear you on Yucca Mountain and my Administration will respect you,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Congress and previous Administrations have long failed to find lasting solutions -- my Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches -- I’m confident we can get it done!”

“I look forward to working with you on this critical issue for Nevada and ensuring your budget doesn’t include any funding to restart the failed Yucca Mountain project that a majority of Nevadans reject, regardless of party,” Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, a Nevada Democrat, responded in her own tweet Thursday.

Energy Secretary Says White House Still Backs Nevada Nuke Dump

President Barack Obama’s administration cut funding for Yucca, saying it wasn’t a “workable option.”

The administration may opt to seek other types of storage, such as interim or temporary sites in other parts of the country, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Friday. States such as Texas and New Mexico have proposed housing the nation’s nuclear waste, endeavors that would involve transporting it across the country.

“In the interim, until Congress chooses to act, we are going to work on whatever solutions may come to the table,” Brouillette told reporters after remarks at the Atlantic Council. “We’ll be working with governors, congressman, policy makers all across the country.”

Trump has supported reviving the plan but in 2018 told a Nevada television station he was reconsidering after campaigning with Senator Dean Heller, an embattled Republican who went on to lose his re-election bid.

The president’s next budget request included $120 million for the geologic repository, which Congress designated in 1987 to store the more than 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste from the nation’s commercial reactors.

“With this change of direction by the Trump administration, decades of unfortunate attempts to shove nuclear waste down Yucca Mountain officially come to an end,” said Geoff Fettus, senior attorney in the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Congress must now move in a new direction, one based on sound science, the consent of the state and local citizens, and compliance with all environmental laws.”

(Adds energy secretary’s comments starting in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter5@bloomberg.net;Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Gregory Mott

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