More than a week after returning from Yucca Mountain in Nevada, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan doubled down on his support of the mothballed repository, specifically saying nuclear material and waste currently at the Savannah River Site should be moved there.
“It’s time to open up Yucca Mountain, and let's start sending our nuclear waste there," Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, said during a conference call with constituents on Tuesday. "Get it off the shores of Lake Keowee, let's get it away from the Savannah River Site.”
Duncan's call was streamed live on Facebook.
The congressman told listeners prepared defense waste – a product of SRS's Defense Waste Processing Facility – and weapons-grade plutonium should be sent to Yucca Mountain, if and when the federal vault comes to fruition.
"All this can go to Yucca Mountain," Duncan said. "We think it's a great, ideal site for that."
The DWPF converts radioactive liquid waste into a glass form, which is then stored on-site in reinforced concrete bunkers.
In the middle of July, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce environment subcommittee, led a tour of Yucca Mountain. Two South Carolinians attended: Duncan and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, another Republican.
During the tour, Duncan described the Nevada locale as a national solution to a national problem. Sanford, too, has described it as such.
Congress first identified Yucca Mountain in the 1980s to become the nation's nuclear storehouse. The federal government gave Yucca Mountain another nod in 2002.
But the project came to a grinding halt under President Barack Obama's administration.
On Tuesday, Duncan said it's "absurd" Yucca Mountain never came online. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a federal spending watchdog, has attributed Yucca Mountain's demise to political posturing.
"A lot of work went into finding the site, and I can tell you, folks, it's desolate," Duncan said, later circling back to add: "I've only been to one other place that I’ve felt more desolate than that, and that was the Dead Sea in Israel, and then the second one is Yucca Mountain.”
President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2019 budget request – a goal-setting document, for all intents and purposes – allotted Yucca Mountain-related efforts $120 million.
Money for a Yucca Mountain restart was deleted, though, in a recently conferenced defense spending bill.