Oregon Congressman hopes to fast-track Yucca Mountain

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On Thursday, Congress passed a bill to re-establish Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste dump. The bipartisan vote was an overwhelming 340 in favor, to only 72 opposed.

Rep. Greg Walden from Oregon is a Republican who represents people living along the Columbia River.

The waste they're concerned about comes from what was once called the Hanford Project. Located in south-central Washington state, the long-decommissioned Hanford Nuclear Production Complex is said to represent more than half the nation's high-level radioactive waste: approximately 56-million gallons of Cold War-era nuclear material, sitting in corroding, leaking metal tanks.

Because it’s positioned along the Columbia River, many who live downstream in Oregon predict one day, environmental disaster.

RELATED | Nevada promises fight, as House breathes life into Yucca Mountain

Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, wants to fast-track the transport of spent fuel to Nevada, specifically to Yucca Mountain.

Most Nevada leaders, like Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, adamantly opposed the idea, saying it would only put our state at risk.

"This sits above the water table, so if anything leaks, it goes into the water that serves the valley, and that would be a problem. And second, it's on a seismic fault, and we know this is an earthquake-active area," said Titus.

Some in Nevada, however, are in favor of the idea, including many in Nye County who believe reopening Yucca would bring high-paying jobs to the area.

County leaders say the nuclear waste would only be ready for transport once it's crystallized into ceramic pellets or glass, with no opportunity for leakage.

In the meantime, Walden is arguing the federal government has an obligation to clean up nuclear waste in communities like his, and is also obligated to store it in a suitable, safe location. Yucca mountain, he believes, is that spot.

Yucca was de-funded and closed back in 2010, but this year it was included again in the president's budget. The House passed the bill to get it licensed and reopened.

Now it's the Senate’s turn to review that bill and take a vote as well.

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