Senate panel cuts Yucca mountain waste site funds
WASHINGTON - A Senate panel yesterday passed a $25 billion bill for energy programs that slashes funds for a nuclear waste dump in Nevada while it boosts resources to tend the nations nuclear arsenal and reclaim sites contaminated in its development.
The bill to fund energy and water projects with the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year passed unanimously by the Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee, is $2.6 billion more than President George W. Bush sought and $1.4 billion above the version passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives.
While committee members said their bill would fix shortcomings in Bushs budget, they warned that funds likely would drop as differences are worked out with the House bill and lawmakers struggle to stay within overall budget limits.
In a bow to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the assistant majority leader who also chairs the subcommittee that crafted the bill, $125 million was sliced from a program to build an underground dump in Nevadas Yucca Mountain to hold radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants.
Nevada is fighting the nuclear power industrys push to make it the nations repository for spent fuel that remains dangerous for thousands of years and is accumulating in above-ground storage at plants across the country.
Some $8 billion has been spent over the last 20 years to determine if Yucca Mountain will offer safe storage, with critics contending the studies have shown it is unsuitable.
The Houses energy and water bill has the $435 million for Yucca Mountain that Bush sought, while the Senate panel provided $275 million.
The Senate committee bill contains $6 billion to maintain the nations nuclear weapons stockpile, up $925 million from the House bill and $705 million more than Bush had sought.
To continue to clean-up the radioactive mess at various sites across the country left by building the arsenal, the bill earmarks $7.23 billion, $200 million above the House allocation and $900 million more than had Bush wanted.
While the Senate bill emphasized the nuclear weapons complex, it offers less money than the House version to the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, river dredging and other water projects.
The Senate plan has $4.3 billion for water projects, $162 million less than the House but $405 million more than Bushs plan, which targeted them as unnecessary pork.
But the Senate offered more money for research and development of renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass, providing $435 million, compared with the Houses $375 million. Bush sought $275 million.
Story by Vicki Allen
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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