President Donald Trump requested $116 million in his fiscal 2020 budget blueprint for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the process to greenlight the construction of a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
“The Budget also demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to nuclear waste management by supporting the implementation of a robust interim storage program and restarting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding for the Yucca Mountain geologic repository,” the budget said.
Asked about the chances that Congress would enact the request, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said it was “unlikely,” but that the administration remains “hopeful.”
“I think that the chances that Congress would do its job based on historical precedent over the last couple of months are probably unlikely, but that doesn’t mean that we are not hopeful that they will work with us,” she said.
Trump has requested funding for the project in each of three budget requests he has sent to Congress. But each time Congress, at the behest of members of the Nevada congressional delegation, has rejected his proposal to restart the process for licensing the repository.
The president submits a budget to Congress annually, but the document is not binding and only reflects the White House’s priorities. Under the Constitution and budget laws, it is up to Congress to set spending levels and appropriate funds at their discretion.
The request for Yucca funding drew criticism from Gov. Steve Sisolak, who opposes the project.
“President Trump’s request to restart the process for turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste dump is yet another example of the federal government ignoring the will of Nevadans by attempting to shove even more unwanted toxic material down our throats,” Sisolak said in a release. “My administration will continue to exercise all options available to ensure this deeply unpopular project never sees the light of day. Our congressional delegation has my full support in fighting this latest attempt by the federal government to dump nuclear waste in Nevadans’ backyards without our consent.”
The Yucca funding request also comes after the Department of Energy admitted that it had secretly sent a half ton shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada before November. The governor has said he wants to meet with the president about Yucca and the plutonium shipment.
Sisolak has accused the DOE of acting in bad faith because the shipment came despite negotiations with the state and a lawsuit filed in November to avoid having plutonium shipped to Nevada.
Rep. Dina Titus said that by requesting funding for Yucca, Trump is breaking with comments he made in Elko in an October interview with KRNV-News 4, where he said “I think you should do things where people want them to happen, so I would be very inclined to be against it.”
“Every dollar this Administration proposes to put towards the revitalization of Yucca Mountain is another dollar down a rat hole because this unsafe, unsound project should never see the light of day,” Titus said in a release. “I will work with Governor Sisolak and my colleagues in the Nevada delegation to prevent the federal government from shoving this nuclear power company boondoggle down our throat.”
Rep. Steven Horsford said that Trump’s Yucca request in his $4.7 trillion budget added “insult to injury” because Trump is also seeking $8.6 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
The wall funding request comes after Trump’s effort to get Congress to provide $5.7 billion for the wall last fiscal year. Congressional Democrats rebuffed Trump’s request last fiscal year, which led to a record 35-day partial government shutdown.