May 20, 2020

Cortez Masto Pushes Department of Energy Nominee to Honor Trump Administration Commitment to Nevada on Yucca Mountain

ENR Hearing

Washington, D.C. – In today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nomination of Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) pressed the nominee to reaffirm the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Administration’s recent decision to respect the state of Nevada’s overwhelming opposition to Yucca Mountain. In addition, the Senator called on the DOE to commit to working with her to ensure that future nuclear waste legislation includes a consent-based siting process for all states, including Nevada.

Senator Cortez Masto began her questioning by pressing Under Secretary Menezes to clarify comments he made during a House Energy Subcommittee hearing in February 2020, where he stated that: “…what we are trying to do is put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca Mountain.” The Senator asked, “Is the Administration pursing Yucca Mountain as a permeant high level nuclear waste storage site?

Under Secretary Menezes responded that DOE is committed to the Administration’s promise and will not be pursuing Yucca Mountain as a permanent solution to nuclear waste storage.

The Senator continued “I’ve introduced, along with the delegation of Nevada, the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act which would ensure all affected states, including Nevada, local governments and tribal communities are given a voice in any siting process, which includes interim storage. I also know that the Chairwoman has introduced the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, which would also establish a consent based siting process. However, as it is written, the Yucca Mountain project prevents Nevada from participating in that process. I appreciate that the Chairwoman and the Ranking Member have committed to working with Senator Rosen and I to address our concerns with the bill. But have you had a chance to see those bills? Does the Department intend to work with Congress on new legislation to ensure that every state can have a voice in consent based siting processes, including Nevada?”

Under Secretary Menezes stated that while he was not familiar with the details of the bills, he would “promise to look at those bills and offer any technical assistance…but we do know that the solution to nuclear storage will rest with congress and we do pledge to work with you as you develop the legislation.”

Full video of this exchange is available here.