March 20, 2018

Cortez Masto Raises Concerns Over Costs & Safety Associated with Administration’s Proposal to Restart Yucca Mountain

Washington, D.C. – At today’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding the administration’s proposed $120 million budget to restart the Yucca Mountain Project and expenditures related to the project’s licensing process. Cortez Masto sent a letter to Secretary Perry yesterday, requesting information on DOE’s activities and expenditures regarding Yucca Mountain. 

Cortez Masto highlighted the lack of detailed information on the costs, environmental impacts, and final design of the facility, asking, “Why should Congress agree to appropriate any funds without answers to any of these questions?”

In response, Secretary Perry claimed that “Congress funds a number of things without having a final plan done” and that this is “nothing out of the ordinary.” 

Cortez Masto responded, “I appreciate that comment, but I disagree. I’m sitting here in Congress and I want a final plan. I want to know how the money is being spent. I want an analysis. I want an assessment. I think it’s irresponsible not to ask those questions; to ask for that information. And it’s your job to provide that information. So, I’m looking forward in the future – if we’re going to go down this path and we’ve had this conversation before – I think you need to come up with concrete answers and an assessment and the costs affiliated with it for many things that are happening right now in the Department of Energy. And I disagree with some of the comments you’ve made and have concerns, and echo some of the concerns of my colleagues, with respect to the budget cuts that are occurring and being requested for the Department of Energy and the impact it’s going to have in Nevada as well.”

In addition, Cortez Masto asked Secretary Perry if he was aware when the last time DOE completed a total system lifecycle cost assessment for Yucca Mountain and the report’s finding that the project’s overall cost is estimated at $96 billion (in 2007 dollars), and that department will need at least $13.5 billion (in 2007 dollars) and ten years just to obtain a construction authorization and license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Secretary Perry conceded that he is not aware of said assessment and report, which was conducted and released a decade ago.

Cortez Masto also raised concerns over the engineering safety and costs pertaining to DOE’s design for titanium drip shields that is said to exhaust the nation’s supply of titanium. There is currently no plan to design these structures and how to install the shields. Secretary Perry said that the DOE has not done any analysis on cost and engineering pertaining to these shields.