Next Yucca Mountain Debate Will Wait for the Floor

Alexander's move heads off a committee fight on Yucca Mountain funding, but could lead to a debate on the Senate floor (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate's next big battle over funding for nuclear waste storage in Nevada will wait for the floor.  

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has decided against including money for Yucca Mountain in his bill, putting off the debate until the bill is approved by the committee and is subject to an open amendment process on the floor.  

The bill does include new language designed to allow the Department of Energy to work with private operators of proposed storage sites in states including New Mexico and Texas. It also includes another attempt by Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to set up a pilot project for consolidated storage of the waste.  

Alexander has been among the most vocal advocates for a long-term solution to nuclear waste that includes the project so despised by the Nevada Senate delegation.  

For years, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used his considerable leverage as majority leader to stymie the efforts of Alexander and others to revive the project, and just last week he blasted current and potential Republican candidates for having expressed support for the development.  

Alexander might not even be the one to spearhead Yucca funding on the floor or in conference from the House, though he would assuredly be supportive.  

"The legislation Senator Feinstein and I worked to develop is a bipartisan starting point that creates a pilot program for consolidated storage and includes language that allows the U.S. Department of Energy to work with private storage facilities," he said in a statement. "Putting an end to our decades-long nuclear waste stalemate will involve completing Yucca Mountain, and I look forward to an open amendment process in the U.S. Senate and to working with the House to remove obstacles to nuclear power."  

The Appropriations panel is expected to tee up the Energy-Water bill for floor consideration after the Senate returns from the Memorial Day recess.  

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