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Under pressure from all sides, Brown backtracks, says Yucca ‘should not be revived’

(Credit: Sam Brown campaign/Nevada Current)

Hugh Jackson, Nevada Current
May 25, 2024

After weeks of taking heat from opponents and critics Democrat and Republican alike for expressing a willingness to bring nuclear waste to Nevada, Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown on Saturday said that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project should not be considered.

“Over the past month, I’ve invested time speaking with engineers and experts on Yucca Mountain. It is abundantly clear that the project is dead,” Brown said on social media Saturday.

“As I’ve said before, it should not, and will not, be revived as a nuclear waste repository,” Brown added. 

Brown’s campaign did not respond Saturday to a request to identify where and when he has said that before.

His statement Saturday is in stark contrast to remarks he made in 2022 but that only came to light last month, in which Brown said not allowing nuclear waste in Nevada was “an incredible loss of revenue for our state.”

In a 2022 recording obtained and reported by the Los Angeles Times last month, when asked about Yucca Mountain at a campaign event, Brown said “one of the things I’m afraid of is a lack of understanding and the fearmongering that Harry Reid and others have spread,” and “that we could miss an incredible opportunity for revenue for our state in the future.”

“If we don’t act soon,” Brown added in those 2022 remarks, “other states like Texas and New Mexico, right now, are assessing whether or not they can essentially steal that opportunity from us. And at the end of the day, we all know Nevada could use another great source of revenue and it sure would be a shame if we didn’t monopolize on that and become a central hub of new development that we can do at Yucca.”

In a statement issued by Brown in response to the Times story, he did not specifically reassert support for bringing nuclear waste to Nevada, but said “I’m always interested in economic opportunities for Nevada that better diversify our economy.”

Ever since the so-called “Screw Nevada” bill passed by Congress in 1987 singling out the Yucca Mountain site northwest of Las Vegas to be studied as the nation’s nuclear waste facility, opposition from the Nevada public and the state’s politicians of both parties has been overwhelming.

Since Brown’s 2022 statements became public, Sen. Jacky Rosen and multiple other Democrats have hammered Brown for expressing willingness to bring nuclear waste to Nevada.

And Jeff Gunter, Brown’s chief challenger for the Republican nomination to challenge Rosen in the general election, is airing an ad promising to block the Yucca project if elected to the Senate and blasting Brown’s willingness to “dump toxic nuclear waste here.”

Less than three weeks ago Brown responded to Rosen and Gunter’s attacks over Yucca by telling The Hill he is “not committed to supporting the opening of Yucca Mountain.

“However,” Brown added in that May 14 statement to The Hill, “I will consider all thoroughly vetted future proposals, with the safety of Nevadans being my top priority, while ensuring the proposals are substantially economically beneficial.” 

“Leadership means considering all economic opportunities that could better support the lives of Nevadans,” Brown added.

That too is in contrast to his statement on social media Saturday, in which Brown said, “As Nevada’s next US Senator, I’ll stand with President Trump to oppose it.”

Trump’s opposition to dumping nuclear waste in Nevada was itself a reversal of position on the former president’s part.

Yucca Mountain was officially designated as the nation’s nuclear waste “repository” during the administration of George W. Bush, in 2002. But the project was the subject of legal and regulatory proceedings for the next several years, until the administration of Barack Obama ordered the Department of Energy to discontinue its licensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and eliminated federal funding for the project.

While president, Trump attempted to restart funding for Yucca, but was thwarted by Congress. Trump reversed positions during the 2022 campaign cycle in an effort to help Adam Laxalt, the Republican who defeated Brown in the 2022 Senate primary but lost to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the general election. The Biden administration has never included funding for the Yucca Mountain project, and has assured Nevada officials that it has no plans to ever do so.

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, which includes a playbook for actions the influential organization suggests should be urgent priorities in a second Trump administration, calls for resuming and funding the Yucca Mountain licensing process.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.