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House Panel Votes in Favor of Nevada Waste Site

April 24, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A House panel voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override Nevada's objections to building a nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in the state's desert.

The 24-2 vote was the first congressional action on President Bush's decision in February to approve the Yucca Mountain site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The action by the Energy and Commerce energy subcommittee signaled that the House is ready to move swiftly to support the president's decision despite Nevada's strong opposition.

The proposal calls for the Yucca Mountain facility, which has yet to get regulatory approval, to accept 77,000 tons of waste over 24 years, beginning in 2010.

Subcommittee chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) said it would be a mistake to "not let the process go forward." A final decision on the disposal site will be made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The full committee is expected to approve the resolution this week. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said he expects a floor vote next week. The Senate has yet to take up the resolution.

Nevada lawmakers have focused their fight against the site on the Senate, where the Democratic leadership opposes Yucca Mountain.

The resolution gained broad bipartisan support in the subcommittee with only Democrats--Reps. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Bill Luther of Minnesota--opposed.

Rep. Ralph M. Hall (D-Texas) recalled the decision by Congress in 1987 to single out Nevada.

"We took no pleasure in selecting a state [then] and it's not easy to vote against friends of ours [from Nevada]. It's not easy to roll over them," Hall said. But he said he is convinced the waste will be safer at a single site than scattered around the country and that "the risks are very low."

Only Markey, a longtime critic of the Yucca Mountain site, spoke extensively against the Bush decision, saying it was "based on politics and not science." He said he had no confidence in members of Congress deciding about the safety of the site.

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