Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus invited Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen on a trip to visit Yucca Mountain on Saturday, but both declined, citing their opposition to the project.
"This is an obvious political stunt from Congressman Shimkus, and I'm not going to be a part of it,” Rosen said on Thursday.
Rosen, who was first elected to the state's 3rd Congressional District in 2016 and is running for the Senate seat of Republican Dean Heller—an intense contest that could determine control of the chamber—has never been to Yucca, according to her office. However, a spokeswoman contended that she is "well-informed regarding the issue and has spoken to a wide range of stakeholders and experts who for years have made the case that Yucca Mountain is risky and scientifically unsound."
Rosen had organized a letter sent to Shimkus Wednesday signed by her fellow Nevada Democrats, Titus and Ruben Kihuen. The Democrats’ letter urged Shimkus to invite state-level stakeholders with geological and scientific expertise.
“I explicitly requested that scientific and geological experts be allowed to join the tour of the Yucca Mountain site, so that they could shed light on how this reckless project will negatively affect Nevadans,” Rosen continued in a statement from her office. “If Congressman Shimkus won't fulfill this reasonable request, then he has no business coming to our state this weekend or trying to revive Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump."
Titus also reacted sharply, noting that the invitation seemed last minute.
“I have been to Yucca Mountain and am very well-acquainted with this issue,” she said in a comment provided by her office. “I am not interested in giving legitimacy to his taxpayer-funded junket to my district.”
Shimkus is leading a delegation of 12 House lawmakers to tour the Yucca site on Saturday. He sent three letters Thursday, responding to Rosen, Titus and Kihuen.
In them, Shimkus extended invitations to Titus and Rosen. He also said that he values engagement with all stakeholders interested in a constructive conversation to advance a national bipartisan solution to the problem of where to store the nation’s nuclear waste. He noted that the bill he drafted to restart Yucca passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in May.
With regard to the science and geological concerns raised by the Nevada Democrats, Shimkus wrote “The scientific and technical issues you reference in your letter will be appropriately addressed as part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s formal adjudication of the Yucca Mountain License Application.”
Shimkus’ letter to Kihuen also noted that the Nevada lawmaker requested to go on the trip on Tuesday. His office provided the letter to The Nevada Independent in which Kihuen said he was “formally requesting to join this Delegation Tour in order to see first-hand the impact the proposed site will have for my constituents.”
That contradicted a statement Kihuen’s made Wednesday when he said he declined to go on the trip because he was invited at the last minute and had scheduling conflicts.
Asked about the incongruity, Kihuen declined to comment adding that “I refer you to the statement. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Shimkus wrote a fourth letter to Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force Executive Director Judy Treichel, who sent Shimkus a letter on Monday seeking to go on the congressional delegation tour of the Yucca facility.
In his letter, Shimkus said that he appreciated her concern, but “logistical issues limit participation for the tour.”
Treichel told The Nevada Independent that she found his response “offensive.”
“The letter was just sort of silly,” she said. “I just think he didn’t want to hear what we had to say. That’s the beginning and end of his problem. He really doesn’t seem to care so it’s sort of offensive to all of us.”