House OKs $131 million for Yucca

WASHINGTON - The House on Friday approved a $28 billion measure financing energy and water programs that provides far less than President Bush proposed for building a nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada.

The bill, approved by a 370-16 vote, provides $131 million for continued preparations for the nuclear waste storage site to be built at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Bush proposed $880 million for the project, which the government hopes to complete by 2010. The bill ignored Bush's request to finance $749 million of the sum by taking it from a special nuclear waste fund, which comes from fees electric utilities charge their customers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation on Thursday requiring that at least $750 million be taken annually from that fund for work on the Yucca facility. That bill's prospects are uncertain, especially in the Senate, where Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the chamber's No. 2 Democratic leader, opposes the Yucca plan.

Nevada's three House members, Republicans Jon Porter and Jim Gibbons and Democrat Shelley Berkley, all voted against the bill Friday.

"The $131 million in funding for Yucca Mountain included in this bill is a small fraction of what the White House had requested, but we are still not entirely out of the woods," Berkley said in a statement. "Those who wish to see nuclear waste buried in Nevada are already vowing to use upcoming negotiations between the House and Senate to restore any shortfall in the President's record $880 million request."

"We're not happy unless it's zero," said Gibbons spokeswoman Amy Spanbauer. "But we were pleased to see that the House did not entertain the idea of taking the Yucca Mountain project off-budget and removing congressional authority."


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