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June 17, 2019

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Despite senator’s concerns, Perry says ‘Yucca Mountain is the law’

Yucca Mountain

Isaac Brekken / AP

In this April 13, 2006, file photo, an underground train at the entrance of Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Updated Tuesday, April 2, 2019 | 3:37 p.m.

Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

CARSON CITY — U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised concerns at a U.S. Senate hearing today about the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump outside Las Vegas, including its proximity to Nellis Air Force Base and earthquake activity.

But at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that “Yucca Mountain is the law. I’m going to follow the law.”

Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, pressed Perry on multiple concerns about the project, spurred by President Donald Trump’s $116 million allocation in the Department of Energy budget to restart licensing work on the facility about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“The most recent geological survey taken in this area lists the region to be a moderate to high seismic hazard,” she said. “So, my question to you is, have you taken these seismic hazard reports into consideration as you continue to push to open Yucca Mountain?”

Perry said they would be taken into account.

Cortez Masto also noted the proximity of Yucca Mountain to Nellis and the military exercises there that can include live munitions. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has raised concerns that storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain could pose a risk to base operations.

In addition, Cortez Masto brought up previous remarks by Trump that he was not interested in forcing a nuclear waste facility on a place that didn’t want it.

Perry downplayed those comments, saying statue requires continuing the Yucca Mountain licensing process.

“I think what we all have to recognize here is that Yucca Mountain is the law. I’m going to follow the law,” he said. “I think the president is going to follow the law. His opinion on whether or not the people of Nevada like it or not doesn’t have anything to do with what the statute says.”

Following the hearing, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a statement saying that the 1987 law designating Yucca as the nation’s only nuclear waste repository was “based on political science, not earth science.”

“Nevada will never stop fighting this unsound, unsafe, and costly mistake,” Sisolak said.