Nov. 27, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Reid, Murray Clash Over Yucca

Home-State Demands Pull Leaders in Opposite Directions Over Nuclear Storage

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Sen. Patty Murray wants nuclear waste out of Washington state, but Dino Rossi, her GOP opponent in November, is raising questions about her ability to accomplish that.

As they fight to keep their jobs past November, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his third-ranked lieutenant, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), find themselves battling each other in the Capitol over the fate of a controversial nuclear waste site in Reid’s backyard.

Reid has worked for years to try to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository and now has the support of the Obama administration. But Murray announced plans this week to offer an amendment that would resume the process of readying the site — 100 miles from Las Vegas — to accept the nation’s nuclear waste.

In particular, Murray wants the nuclear waste removed from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland, Wash. She said Hanford is one of the most polluted areas in the country and that nuclear waste has been leaking into the Columbia River for decades.

“We have been working for a very long time to contain that waste and to put it into safe storage,” she said. “If we get to a place where we’ve contained it and we can’t store it — it’s sitting right next to the Columbia River — we can’t have that.”

But Reid has promised to kill the Yucca facility once and for all.

“As the senior Senator from Nevada, Reid knows that Yucca Mountain is not the answer to our nation’s problem of dealing with nuclear waste, and as long as he is Senate Majority Leader, Yucca Mountain will never be built,” Reid spokesman Tom Brede said.

The issue is tricky for both Senators, who face tough elections this year and need to show constituents that they can influence the process to their states’ advantage.

But both Reid and Murray contend the issue has not affected their generally good working relationship.

“This is not a new issue for Harry and I,” Murray said Wednesday. “I voted to keep Yucca Mountain open years ago. He and I have talked about this issue many, many times, you know, and we both understand our states’ interests on this and agree to disagree on the larger issue. And I expect him to fight for his state and he expects me to fight for mine.”

Brede added, “The two Senators work very well together, but this is one issue where they happen to disagree.”

Brede would not say how Reid planned to kill Murray’s newest proposal nor whether she had notified the Majority Leader of her plans ahead of time.

But Murray said she told Reid months ago that she would be pushing the issue this year, given the Energy Department’s decision to take Yucca Mountain off the table as a potential repository. A presidential “blue ribbon commission” has been instructed to find sites other than Yucca Mountain that are suitable for handling nuclear waste.

Back in Nevada, Reid has been running ads touting his success in killing the Yucca Mountain project, given the Energy Department’s moves to eliminate the program. Reid has also been criticized over potential job losses at the site while the state’s unemployment rate runs at 14 percent.

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