Lindsey Graham, Cola, Yucca

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to reporters in Columbia on Friday morning. He addressed a breadth of topics during a question-and-answer session.

COLUMBIA — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is pleased to see a renewed push for Yucca Mountain, but he's doubtful of the effort's potency.

The South Carolina Republican, no stranger to nuclear affairs, during a media briefing Friday morning said he is "not optimistic" a breakthrough will be made on the waste-centric impasse.

"Our energy policies are screwed up," Graham said, later referring to Yucca Mountain as a languishing "world-class repository."

Congress in the 1980s first identified Yucca Mountain, located in a remote Nevada locale, to become the nation's nuclear storehouse. Another green light was given in 2002.

But the outlook for Yucca Mountain – that includes funding – soured during President Barack Obama's time in office. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a spending watchdog, has said the project was terminated for political reasons.

"It's been shut down because Harry Reid wouldn't let us open up Yucca Mountain," Graham said Friday, referencing the longtime Nevada senator.

Graham is happy, though, that President Donald Trump included $116 million in his fiscal year 2020 budget to revive Yucca Mountain and a related interim storage program.

"The budget also demonstrates the administration's commitment to nuclear waste management by supporting the implementation of a robust interim storage program and restarting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding for the Yucca Mountain geologic repository," reads the 100-plus page budget blueprint, which was published earlier this year.

Trump's FY2019 budget request included $120 million for the same things.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, another South Carolina Republican, has expressed repeated support for Yucca Mountain. Duncan traveled to the site last year with a contingent of congressmen; he live-streamed portions of the trip on Facebook.

"Get it off the shores of Lake Keowee," Duncan said of nuclear waste. "Let's get it away from the Savannah River Site."

Graham on Friday said a successful Yucca Mountain program could bolster the nation's energy industry.

"Without a Yucca Mountain, you have to store spent fuel on site," the senator said, later adding: "If we could ever actually use Yucca Mountain, it would increase the potential of nuclear power in this country big time."

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin