On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee took up a draft bill to revive the long-delayed and long controversial plan to store the nation’s nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Several of the subcommittee’s members—Democrats and Republicans alike—represent districts where nuclear waste is sitting with nowhere to go. Chairman John Shimkus’s home state of Illinois has the most nuclear waste of any state, and he’s made Yucca Mountain one of his signature issues.
Not represented by any members of the committee: Nevada, the state where Yucca Mountain is located. It was a sore point. Nevada has been fighting against the Yucca Mountain plan since 1987, when a bill designated the site as the nation’s permanent nuclear waste repository with little input from the state. It became known as the “Screw Nevada” bill, though actual construction of the site has stalled for political reasons. A Nevadan official took to calling the new draft bill “Screw Nevada 2.” (The subcommittee did hold a hearing this past July for Nevadan stakeholders, before a bill was available.)
After Nevada’s representatives protested, the committee hastily added another panel of witnesses to the hearing. That panel was made up of the state’s senior senator, Republican Dean Heller, three of its four representatives—Ruben Kihuen, Dina Titus, and Jacky Rosen, all Democrats. For balance, it also included a supporter: Republican congressman Joe Wilson, whose South Carolina district includes decommissioned reactors once used to supply nuclear weapons.