American nuclear power plants produce a lot of radioactive waste, more than 2,000 tons each year, and there’s a lot of controversy over where to put it.
For now, it’s spread out in temporary storage casks at about 70 sites across the country, but the Trump administration is eyeing a site in Nevada as a permanent solution.
The U.S. Department of Energy decided in 1987 that the best place to put the waste is inside a mountain in the Nevada desert, about 100 miles from Las Vegas. But that project — the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository — has been tied up in permitting red-tape and politics, as Nevada’s elected leaders have aimed to protect their state from catastrophe if something goes wrong. Pressured by powerful then-U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, the Obama administration stopped funding for the Yucca Mountain project’s license in 2010.
But Reid is gone. And President Trump’s Department of Energy has expressed interest in restarting research and development at Yucca Mountain. Seeing an opening, Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus, chair of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has plowed ahead with a bill passed through the House that would bring Yucca Mountain much closer to opening its doors.
But another Nevada senator is standing in the way. This time, it’s U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, who has pledged that Nevada will never be the nation’s nuclear waste dumping ground.
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