The Obama Administration’s efforts to end the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository hit a snag this weekend with passage of the 2011 spending bill by the U.S. House. The bill, which passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, contains a provision that directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt all Yucca Mountain closure efforts. The $1 trillion measure, which funds the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, passed the Republican-controlled House 235-189, with Nevada’s delegation voting along party lines. Republicans Dean Heller and Joe Heck voted in favor, while Democrat Shelley Berkley voted against it. However, Heller voiced his opposition to Yucca Mountain during debate on the House floor, as he introduced an amendment to completely defund the project, declaring it “dead” and a “boondoggle.” But Heller’s amendment was defeated by voice vote, with members of both parties objecting to the closure.
President Obama included zero funding for Yucca Mountain in his 2012 budget, and his administration has been pushing to end the project entirely for the past two years, pledging to instead find an alternative to storing the nation’s nuclear waste. But some nuclear power-producing states have filed a lawsuit claiming the Obama Administration doesn’t have the authority to close Yucca Mountain without Congressional approval.
Nevada’s Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, will likely seek to remove the Yucca Mountain language from the spending bill before it passes the Senate.