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September 18, 2018

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Energy industry experts gather in Nevada for annual summit on nuclear waste

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Chris Morris / Yvonne Gonzalez, Las Vegas

Keynote speaker Anne White helps kick off the 2018 RadWaste Summit on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Green Valley Resort. This year’s event is focusing more on issues outside of the debate surrounding a proposed nuclear waste repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

A nuclear waste summit at Green Valley Resort will spend the next few days focused on the feedback from experts outside the host state of Yucca Mountain, where federal officials have proposed a repository for spent nuclear fuel.

Where last year’s summit gave stage time to a Nevada and local official, each representing one side of the Yucca Mountain argument, organizers have put an emphasis on other Department of Energy projects and lower-level waste than what might be stored at Yucca Mountain.

The 2018 summit also includes representatives from other local jurisdictions, such as Richland, Wash., which is near the decommissioned Hanford nuclear site and home to the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear facility.

“I simply like to add different perspectives each year,” said Nancy Berlin, summit program manager. “Last year our program featured pro (and) con perspectives from Nevada; this year we are talking about state (and) local perspectives from other areas to encourage conversations and lessons learned from different regions.”

Bob Halstead, the executive director of the governor’s Agency for Nuclear Projects who wasn’t invited as a speaker and could not attend as an audience member due to a prior engagement, said this year’s summit was more focused on corporations and the DOE than on Nevada-specific topics.

Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen appeared on a panel alongside Halstead last year. Nye County is one of several rural jurisdictions to call for the licensing process to move forward before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission so that the science behind the Yucca Mountain project can be heard.

Keynote speaker Anne White, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Environmental Management at the U.S. Department of Energy, helped open the summit today with a discussion on her department’s efforts to clean up sites such as the Nevada National Security Site, where more than 900 nuclear tests occurred over the course of about four decades, according to DOE.

“(Energy) Secretary (Rick) Perry and DOE leadership have tasked me with the responsibility to see that EM produces results, and I intend to see to it they are not disappointed,” she said.

White said goals include reducing taxpayer liability by closing sites. At the security site, about 99 percent of the investigations and corrective actions on surface contamination have been completed, according to DOE. Cleanup of that site is expected to cost billions and last until 2030.

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