Republicans are looking for a side door to open the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, after President Obama scrapped the project in his first term.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., ran an energy subcommittee hearing Wednesday on low-level nuclear waste, but wants the Department of Energy to broaden discussions it is having with Nevada to include opening a storage facility at Yucca for higher-level nuclear fuel waste from power plants.
"The Department of Energy carefully and constructively engaged with the state of Nevada to provide for a mixed low-level waste disposal site at the Nevada National Security Site, adjacent to Yucca Mountain," Shimkus said. "We should consider how these conversations between the federal government and Nevada can continue to advance the development of a deep, geologic repository for used fuel."
He said the Department of Energy entered into a broad agreement with the state recently to begin accepting low-level waste at the adjacent facility. States do not have a place to store their low-level waste after last year's fire at a Department of Energy waste facility in New Mexico.
Shimkus said the Energy Department was directed by Congress in 2005 "to examine disposal options" for the more dangerous forms of low-level waste and make recommendations to Congress. But "Congress has not yet received any ... recommendation."
He said the problem would have been moot if the Obama administration had not canceled the Yucca Mountain permanent waste site. "However, DOE walked away from the most practical disposal pathway for [this dangerous] waste when President Obama quit work on the Yucca Mountain project."
A waste facility in Texas is taking some of the low-level waste, but Texas lawmakers at the hearing said a more permanent solution is needed because the West Texas site has limited storage capability.