Committee rejects $200M Yucca proposal

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved three more fiscal 2011 spending bills Thursday, including the $34.97 billion Energy and Water Appropriations measure after rejecting an amendment from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would continue funding for Nevada's Yucca Mountain planned nuclear waste repository.

The bills, which also include the $67.9 billion Transportation-HUD and $60.1 billion Commerce-Justice-Science measures, were approved en bloc on a party-line 17-12 vote.

Republican appropriators have opposed spending bills since last week's committee decision not to consider their proposal to cap fiscal 2011 discretionary funding at $1.108 trillion, less than the $1.121 trillion Democrats had proposed.

The committee instead agreed to a $1.114 trillion discretionary spending limit, also on a party-line vote. To date, the panel has approved six of the 12 annual spending bills.

Murray's amendment to the Energy and Water bill would have provided $200 million to continue the licensing for the Yucca Mountain project.

The proposal put her at odds with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. D-Nev., and President Obama, both of whom have pushed to close the Yucca site. Obama's fiscal 2011 budget provided no funding for the project and neither does the Senate bill.

Last month, the three administrative judges of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied the Energy Department's motion to withdraw the license application of the Nevada site, saying no evidence has been presented that the application is flawed or the site unsafe.

"We've spent over $10 billion on Yucca Mountain, and we know the courts will decide how this moves forward, but in the meantime I believe we should continue funding this important program," Murray said.

Yucca Mountain has also become a campaign issue for Murray, who is in a tough re-election battle against Republican Dino Rossi. Earlier this week, Rossi accused her of not being aggressive enough to keep the repository project going.

Washington State has the Energy Department's 586-square-mile Hanford Site, home to nine former nuclear reactors and their associated processing facilities that were built beginning in 1943. The site's works have generated billions of gallons of liquid waste and millions of tons of solid waste which must now be cleaned up, removed or remediated.

"Without a national repository Hanford and other nuclear waste sites will be left in limbo," Murray said.

Murray's amendment was defeated 13-16, with all Republicans supporting the amendment except for Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Bob Bennett, R-Utah. Along with Murray, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., were the only two Democrats to vote for the amendment.

Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., opposed the Murray amendment and argued that the $200 million would do nothing to "restart" the project. He said the committee should wait for the deliberations of the federal blue-ribbon panel that will develop recommendations for managing the nation's nuclear waste.

Bennett agreed, and observed that all current U.S. nuclear waste would fill up the Yucca Mountain repository, so a new plan would have to be developed whether the project is funded or not.

The $34.97 billion Energy and Water spending bill is $376.3 million below the president's budget request and $1.503 billion above the fiscal 2010 level. The Senate bill would provide slightly more than the $34.67 billion House measure.

The committee also approved the Transportation-HUD and Commerce-Justice-Science bills, without major changes to the measures approved by the subcommittees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.