ALEXANDRIA, Va. — President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2021 budget request included no money for Yucca Mountain, what was once to be the nation's dedicated nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
Instead, the executive branch's $4.8 trillion prioritizing document emphasizes what's described as "alternative solutions" – approaches, the budget argues, that will break the nuclear waste logjam.
"The Administration is strongly committed to fulfilling its legal obligations to manage and dispose of the Nation's nuclear waste and will not stand idly by given the stalemate on Yucca Mountain," reads an introduction to the budget, which was unveiled Monday afternoon.
In a call with reporters that same day, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said his department would work and consult with governors and policy makers and private industry. Interim storage, he indicated, could be a path forward.
Yucca Mountain, relatively close to Las Vegas, was identified in the 1980s as the nation's potential nuclear storehouse, accepting, and keeping, some of the worst wastes on the planet. But the project fizzled under President Barack Obama (it's been described as a political football) and has failed to gain traction since, much to the disappointment of some South Carolina politicians.
"We know that Yucca Mountain is a national solution to a national problem – not to mention it's the law of the land," U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said in a much longer Feb. 7 statement.
This latest lack of requested funds for Yucca Mountain has generally pleased Nevada's congressional delegation, which has fought for years against the nuclear waste repository, citing health, safety and consent concerns. Some of the same lawmakers applauded Trump's recent tweet, in which the president said he had heard Nevadans and would back off Yucca Mountain and seek other, "innovative" options.
More than two-dozen states across the country currently store nuclear waste, including South Carolina. Millions of gallons of radioactive waste are stored at the Savannah River Site awaiting disposal, a collection of waste that has been described as the state's single largest environmental threat.
In a letter dated Feb. 8, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, commended the Trump administration for not pursuing Yucca Mountain: "As a country, we have an opportunity to move beyond the tired fight over Yucca Mountain and into an era of consent-based siting for nuclear waste," Sisolak wrote. "Nevada would welcome your support on these matters."
Trump in recent years has suggested $120 million and $116 million for the mothballed venture. His tweet, sent Feb. 6, comes days before a Nevada presidential primary.
Trump narrowly lost the Silver State in 2016.
U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, a Nevada Democrat, last week suggested the president could be playing "political games."
"When you ran in 2016, you said you opposed Yucca. Then, once elected, you wanted to fund it," Lee wrote on Twitter, responding to the president. "Now, election season is here and you're against Yucca again."