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No money for Yucca Mountain waste disposal, vows Biden's pick for budget chief

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Neera Tanden, nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget, this week pledged not to propose funding for Yucca Mountain waste storage – an early victory for the Nevada delegation as well as a reinforcement of the Biden administration’s position on the controversial repository.

Tanden’s succinct guarantee, made at a Tuesday confirmation hearing, was prompted by a line of questioning from Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat.

“Will you commit that in future budget requests you won’t propose any funding for licensing, planning or development at Yucca Mountain,” Rosen asked, “and to ensure that there are no regulatory or agency barriers to researching alternatives to nuclear waste disposal that do not include storing waste in Nevada without our consent?”

“Yes, I absolutely will,” Tanden responded. “And, as you know, President Biden has made a similar commitment.”

The vow doubles down on remarks made late last month by Jennifer Granholm, President Joe Biden’s energy secretary designate. At the time, Granholm told Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, another Nevada Democrat, the Biden team “opposes the use” of Yucca Mountain “for storage of nuclear waste.”

Other approaches to nuclear-waste disposal appear to be the way forward, Tanden and Granholm emphasized separately. Rosen agreed: “Instead of wasting taxpayer money on this unsuccessful and misguided project, we should find alternative uses for Yucca that create jobs.”

Yucca Mountain, near Las Vegas, was identified in the 1980s as a potential U.S. nuclear storehouse, where toxic and dangerous wastes could be entombed. The project fizzled under President Barack Obama and has failed to take off since.

Its future continues to look grim. As budget chief, Tanden would sit atop an agency that develops and executes the president’s budget and, as a result, has its hands in a range of policymaking decisions.

Biden, himself, has long opposed Yucca Mountain; candidate Biden declared “there would be absolutely zero dumping of nuclear waste in Nevada.” And Vice President Kamala Harris as a senator backed Cortez Masto and consent-based nuclear waste legislation.

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