Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.



Opponents speak out against attempt to revive Yucca dump "mutant zombie"

Be sure to count the toes! This political cartoon, by Jim Day in the Las Vegas Review Journal, marked the 2010 cancellation of the Yucca dump scheme by the Obama administration -- 23 years after the "Screw Nevada" bill. The cartoon harkens back to "The Beast of Yucca Flats," a 1961 B horror flick, and conveys the Yucca dump's "mutant zombie" nature. U.S. Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois, the state with more atomic reactors, and thus irradiated nuclear fuel, than any other) has long sought to turn Nevada into America's nuclear wasteland, even though it is the Western Shoshone Indian Nation's sacred homeland, since time immemorial.

Shimkus, chairman of the U.S. House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, held a hearing Wednesday, April 26th (the 31st annual commemoration of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe!), seeking to revive and expedite the licensing and opening of the proposed Yucca Mountain burial dump for high-level radioactive waste, through yet more regulatory rollbacks, on top of many others already instituted over the course of decades. (In addition to its violation of treaty rights and environmental justice, the dump is also targeted at a site that fails basic scientific tests, from seismicity to volcanism and hydrology. If waste is ever buried at Yucca Mountain, it will leak massively into the environment.)

Yucca Mountain was singled out as the sole site in the country to be considered for high-level radioactive waste dumping in 1987. The so-called "Screw Nevada bill" saw the rest of the country gang up on the Silver State. The Northeast and Midwest, with numerous targeted sites under the "Eastern site search," had managed to successfully remove themselves from the list the previous year. (90% of the atomic reactors in the U.S., and hence irradiated nuclear fuel, are in the Eastern half of the country.)

The other top targeted Western sites were in Washington State (Hanford Nuclear Reservation area) and Texas (Deaf Smith County), with more than a dozen, and three-dozen, members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, as compared to Nevada's sole member. To make matters even worse for Nevada, Washington State and Texas even shared the House Majority Leadership position, and the Speaker of the House position, between them.

In short, raw politics trumped science when the Screw Nevada bill was passed 30 years ago.

Despite the long odds, opponents to the Yucca dump -- from the Western Shoshone, to more than a thousand environmental groups (representing all 50 states), to the State of Nevada -- have successfully resisted the dump's opening ever since.

And resistance to Shimkus's latest move has been fierce and broad.

Native Community Action Council held a successful and powerful event on Earth Day at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), attended by representatives of numerous Native American Nations, Marshall Islanders, and environmental justice activists. Beyond Nuclear was honored and privileged to be invited to speak. A focus of the gathering was Western Shoshone Nation treaty rights under the "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley, signed by the U.S. government in 1863. Yucca Mountain is clearly located on Western Shoshone treaty lands; the proposed dump is a clear violation of U.S. obligations under the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

NCAC, defying very steep odds, has nonetheless succeeded in establishing itself as an official party, with standing, in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) licensing proceeding for the Yucca dump (a proceeding long suspended, which Shimkus is now trying to restart). NCAC's contentions include the fact that the Western Shoshone Nation holds the land and water rights at Yucca, under the Treaty of Ruby Valley, and thus the U.S. Department of Energy has no right to proceed with the dump. In addition, NCAC has long pointed out, in official comments on Yucca dump environmental impact statements, that the Western Shoshone traditional lifestyle puts them at disproportionate risk of harm from the Yucca dump's inevitable radioactivity releases. Yucca's groundwater, where massive radioactive contamination would leak over time, surfaces as springs in Death Valley, where it serves as a vital source of drinking water for the Timbisha Band of Shoshone.

In addition, 80 environmental organizations, including Beyond Nuclear, fired off a letter to all 535 members of Congress. (See the identical letters to U.S. House and U.S. Senate members.)

Last but not least, the State of Nevada's elected leadership -- from its governor, to its attorney general and state legislature, as well as its U.S. congressional delegation -- has spoken out strongly against the dump, just as it has for more than a generation. Most of Nevada's congressional delegation presented strong opposition to the dump at Shimkus's hearing, having overcome his initial attempt to exclude them.

Funny enough, more than one of Nevada's Members of Congress invoked the phrase "Screw Nevada" during their passionate testimony before Shimkus's subcommittee. When Beyond Nuclear included the oft-used phrase (it is the most commonly invoked label for the 1987 amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, not only by opponents, but even by others!), in written testimony to Shimkus's subcommittee in October 2015, Shimkus's staff demanded the phrase be removed, due to it being derogatory, profane, and vulgar. (Shimkus's staff also demanded that Beyond Nuclear not raise campaign contributions to their boss, from individuals and Political Action Committees associated with the nuclear power industry, nor similar campaign contributions to other Yucca dump proponents in the U.S. House, such as long-serving House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), one of the industry's best friends in Congress. See also Individual Contributions to Rep. Upton Associated with the Nuclear Industry and Rep. Upton's Campaign Contributions from Nuclear Industry Related PACs, backgrounders prepared by Beyond Nuclear.)

Beyond Nuclear released a media statement in response to Shimkus's "Chernobyl day" 2017 hearing.

See the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear's Project's "What's News" website for links to documentation and extensive news coverage regarding the hearing, and the testimonies delivered (look below the Present Legislation - 115th Congress section for daily news coverage, arranged in backwards chronological order).


H.R.___, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017

As announced by U.S. Reps. Walden (R-OR) and Shimkus (R-IL) on the House Energy & Commerce Committee website.

Please note: in their tone deafness, Walden and Shimkus have chosen the 31st annual commemoration of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe (April 26, 1986 to April 26, 2017) to hold this hearing to revive the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump -- which, if successful, would launch unprecedented thousands of "Mobile Chernobyl" truck, train, and barge shipments through most states.

The hearing will be webcast beginning at 10am Eastern on Wed., April 26, 2017 at the Energy & Commerce Committee website.


Battle Born defiance awaits Shimkus, other Yucca backers


Nevada Democrats want say on Yucca Mountain


New Yucca Mountain Bill Unveiled; Hearing Set for Next Week