Cortez Masto questions DOE nominee Granholm on Yucca Mountain, nuclear waste

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned energy secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm on several topics important to Nevadans during a committee hearing today in Washington, D.C., according to a news release from Cortez Masto’s office.

Granholm, a former Michigan governor nominated by President Joe Biden to lead the Department of Energy, answered questions about Yucca Mountain, plutonium storage and the DOE’s plan to combat the climate crisis.

Cortez Masto called the effort to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain “a failed policy. … We still have challenges with really addressing the high-level nuclear waste storage that we have in this country. Yucca Mountain is not the answer. And the couple of questions I have for you is, first, what is this administration’s position on Yucca Mountain?”

Granholm told Cortez Masto that the Biden administration opposes the use of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository. She also committed to working with Congress to develop a safe, workable alternative to Yucca Mountain.

Granholm also said she would support recommendations to ensure that the eventual location of any nuclear waste facility decision would require the consent of the state where it would go. “Absolutely,” Granholm said, adding that she would also commit to engaging with states, tribes, and key stakeholders in developing a consent-based siting process.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, nominee for U.S. Department of Energy.

Cortez Masto asked Granholm about the weapons-grade plutonium that was secretly shipped to Nevada in 2018. The Senator was successful in reaching an agreement with the Department of Energy to have the agency begin removing that plutonium in 2021. In referencing this history, the Senator asked, “what is the current status of DOE’s and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plan for removing the plutonium, if you know?”

Governor Granholm replied, “The plan is to follow the agreement that you negotiated.”

Cortez Masto raised the issue of federal-state coordination for the Nevada National Security Site.

“In 2014,” Cortez Masto said, “the Obama administration and state of Nevada agreed to establish a senior-level DOE-Nevada working group to address mutual concerns about operations at the Nevada National Security Site. Unfortunately, the Trump administration did not follow through on that agreement. Will you commit to reestablish the DOE-Nevada working group with regular meetings of senior-level personnel?”

Granholm said that she would.

On clean energy, the climate crisis and electric vehicles, Cortez Masto said sought agreement with Granholm that states and the federal government would work together on coordinated solutions, and Granholm agreed.

Granholm faced deep skepticism from Republicans as she tried to pitch the president’s vision for a green economy.

“The last Democratic administration went on a regulatory rampage to slow or stop energy production,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a leading Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I’m not going to sit idly by … if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten Wyoming’s economy.”

Granholm, whose state was devastated by the 2008 recession, promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels.

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