Jeff Duncan Mug

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan

Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently visited South Carolina where she touted her extreme socialist agenda; the professor’s uneducated lecture on nuclear energy and nuclear waste really missed the mark. Her devastating proposals, like the Green New Deal which eliminates nuclear energy, should be overwhelmingly rejected by South Carolinians. But while she’s traveling our state, the least she could do is pretend to be informed on issues that matter to our communities.

Nuclear energy is critical to our state; 52.9% of South Carolina’s electricity is generated from nuclear power. It accounts for 95.5% of the state’s emission-free electricity, while it accounts for more than 55% of the nation’s clean energy. It must be part of our all-of-the-above energy matrix.

However, with nuclear energy production comes nuclear waste. In fact, 39 states currently house idle nuclear waste that is ready for long-term storage. In South Carolina, there are seven nuclear reactors at four locations which house approximately 4,800 metric tons of used nuclear fuel.

So, what’s the solution? Yucca Mountain – the safest place to store nuclear waste according to experts. This ideal site can safely store nuclear waste for 1 million years and is more than 90 miles from a major population center. If we can’t put nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, then we can’t put it anywhere – I’ve been out there to see it personally.

Not only is Yucca Mountain scientifically the ideal site for a permanent geologic repository, it’s simply the law of the land – and American ratepayers are on the hook because the federal government has failed its contractual obligation to the people. The Department of Energy began studying Yucca Mountain as a possible location for long-term storage of nuclear waste back in 1978. In 2002, Congress officially designated Yucca Mountain as the site for the nation’s first permanent repository. Ratepayers across the country have paid roughly $40 billion, $3.1 billion in South Carolina alone, to the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Fund to permanently dispose of used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.

Unfortunately, licensing and funding was mothballed in 2011 when President Barack Obama deferred to Nevada Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid instead of faithfully executing the law of the land. This is exactly why the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act is so important. This bill, which passed the House last Congress with a large bipartisan vote of 340-72, would resume the licensing process. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it across the finish line. But we must keep fighting.

When Sen. Warren was asked about her position on Yucca Mountain at a town hall event at USC Aiken, she stated “…we need a coherent plan, and it starts with good science, not with bad politics.” But since the very selection of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s long-term nuclear repository was based on decades of extensive science, it seems Sen. Warren is attempting to deceive South Carolina voters on the facts, while simultaneously taking what she believes to be a politically advantageous position in Nevada. Unfortunately, that’s not leadership. It’s more politics as usual.

Yucca Mountain is the law of the land whether Sen. Warren likes it or not. Both the House and the Senate should advance the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act during the 116th Congress, especially since we have a leader in the White House who understands the importance of this issue unlike our previous president. I’m thankful President Trump included Yucca Mountain funding in his most recent budget request, but the fact remains: Congress must act and send this bill to his desk.

Maybe this information will help Senator Warren understand the issue of nuclear energy and nuclear waste a little better. Or maybe she will just ignore what is important to the people of South Carolina and stick to what she knows: socialism.

Rep. Jeff Duncan has been the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 3rd congressional district since 2011.