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Reid: Yucca Mountain Project Will Never Be Built

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Harry Reid claimed another victory Thursday in his never-ending fight to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project — and ensure it stays dead.  

The Nevada Democrat touted a new Nuclear Regulatory Commission report.  

“The latest study released by the NRC acknowledges one of the major weaknesses of the effort to resurrect Yucca Mountain: the federal government does not have the water it needs nor control of the land necessary to build a nuclear waste dump in Nevada,” Reid said in a release.  

The NRC report, released Thursday, also noted “the land is not free of significant encumbrances such as mining rights, deeds, rights-of-way or other legal rights.” “This is just one reason why the Yucca Mountain project will never be built and Congress should instead focus on consent-based solutions that don’t shove nuclear waste down a community’s throat over the objections of its people,” Reid said.  

The Nevada Democrat said the state years ago refused to grant the federal government water rights and subsequently beat back an effort to force the state to turn over its water.  

Reid, who is up for re-election in 2016 and is expected to face a tough race, has long opposed the project and has pointed to his success in killing the repository as one reason why voters should keep him in the Senate.  

In a memo circulated this week by his office highlighting victories for Nevada in the lame-duck session, Yucca Mountain is mentioned.  

“There is zero funding for the for the Yucca Mountain project, maintaining the project’s status as terminated,” the memo said.  

The memo also mentions the confirmation of Jeffery M. Baran to the NRC to fill the spot of retiring NRC Chairman Allison M. Macfarlane. The move has increased speculation the president would nominate Stephen Burns to be NRC chairman, who would be an effective ally against reviving the project.  

Burns, who was confirmed in September, has been silent on the Yucca issue during the confirmation process. But he was previously the chief counsel to former NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko, a former Reid staffer and staunch Yucca opponent whom Reid helped install at the NRC. Both Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who also opposes Yucca, voted for Burns’ confirmation.  

But Reid will be tested in the next Congress when his party will no longer set the agenda in the Senate, though he will be minority leader. Several members have expressed interest in reviving the project, including Sen Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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