March 09, 2023

Following Ohio Train Derailment, Cortez Masto Reiterates Serious Yucca Mountain Safety Concerns at Senate Energy and Natural Resources Hearing

Cortez Masto Hearing

Washington, D.C. – At a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) reiterated the serious safety concerns surrounding any proposals to transport nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. She pointed to last month’s East Palestine, Ohio train derailment as an example of why Nevadans oppose the failed Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project. She also called on the Biden Administration to reiterate their support for a consent-based siting process.

Senator Cortez Masto began the hearing by stating that the Ohio derailment is one of the many reasons  why Nevadans have serious concerns with any potential efforts to move spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain. “It is worth noting that the Yucca Mountain project would not be a small project,” she said. “It would require the shipment of over 9,000 casks of high level nuclear waste on 2,800 trains over the next 50 years through some of Nevada’s most visited and populated areas.” 

“It’s a prime example of why state consent is critical,” she continued. “Shipments would pass through Nevada and it is vital we have a buy-in from all impacted levels of government.”

She pressed Kathryn Huff, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, about the need to find consent-based solutions that work for everyone.

Later in the testimony, Dr. John Wagner from the Idaho National Laboratory stated that any trains carrying nuclear waste casks are subject to rigorous testing and a higher level of safety.

Senator Cortez Masto responded, “I appreciate your comments there – but I’m a third generation Nevadan and we were also told that atomic testing in Nevada deserts was safe for everyone, and that was proven not to be the case.”

“We need to get this right,” she concluded. “We have an opportunity now to really focus on moving forward. We know the science isn’t safe at Yucca Mountain, its proven. We have an opportunity to work together with new technology to address this issue.”

Under the Biden Administration, Senator Cortez Masto personally pressed Energy Secretary Granholm to acknowledge that Yucca Mountain is an unworkable site and express her support for a consent-based approach to store the nation’s nuclear waste. She recently reintroduced her Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act to ensure that state, local, and tribal governments are central to decisions regarding a permanent repository.