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March 27, 2017

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Lawmaker says Trump win brings Yucca Mountain closer to opening

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., left, accompanied by House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 1, 2013, to talk about the effect of automatic budget cuts on the military.

With Donald Trump moving into the White House and retiring Senate Democrat Harry Reid heading back to Nevada, a South Carolina congressman is optimistic the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository soon could be back on the federal government's agenda.

Republican Joe Wilson told the Columbia, S.C., Rotary Club Monday that the president-elect's transition team has distributed a survey to Energy Department personnel about the long-delayed facility 90 miles north of Las Vegas that could host nuclear waste now held in South Carolina — something Nevada's Reid, the Senate's minority leader, long opposed.

"We've already put $1.5 billion into permanent storage there," Wilson said, adding he hopes the retiring Reid "goes (home) to his just reward in Las Vegas."

Wilson also hopes the Trump administration will allow completion of the MOX facility at the Savannah River site — to convert weaponized plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors — that had been plagued by cost overruns.

"On Jan. 20, we're going to see a change on mixed oxides, which means jobs, but it's also about a facility that's 70 percent complete," he said.

That isn't the only thing Wilson sees changing on Jan. 20, the day Trump will be sworn in as president with a GOP-controlled Congress.

For instance, Obamacare soon will be repealed, Wilson predicted, adding he long has been a supporter of the "patient-centered" replacement plan advocated by U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., slated to become Trump's health secretary.

Wilson also could have an interesting role in the new Congress. On a day when the headlines focused on alleged Russian hacking surrounding the 2016 election, Wilson will be chairing a House subcommittee focused on defending the country against cyber attacks.

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