The Board of Examiners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a $5.1 million contract with Washington lawyers to fight President Trump’s proposed restart of the Yucca Mountain project.
The Trump budget, as it did a year ago, includes $120 million for the Department of Energy to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project plus $48 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Those requests are much the same as the funding sought a year ago but not included in the bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last July.
Robert Halstead, head of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency, told the board chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval the contract is with the firm of Egan, Fitzpatrick, Malsch & Lawrence of Austin, Texas, to represent the state as they have in the past. He said the state lacks the expertise in dealing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do the work itself. The contract is for two years.
Nick Trutanich of the AG’s office said the contract renews the relationship Nevada has had with that firm since 2001. Attorney General Adam Laxalt said he believes between his office, the contract law firm and Halstead’s agency, “we have the best legal, technical team this state could ask for right now.”
“I submit as you do that we are ready for this fight,” he said.
Sandoval said this battle has been going on since he was in the Nevada Assembly more than 20 years ago.
“It‘s déjà vu all over again,” he said. “We have to maintain the vigor, the ferocity, the tenacity,” to block efforts to store high-level nuclear waste at the site just 75 miles form Las Vegas.
Halstead said the contract law firm will work with his office and the Attorney General as well as Nevada’s congressional delegation to fight the dump project.
He said the dump site is unsafe and the transportation plan to get the waste across country to Nevada is unacceptable and unsafe.
Halstead said his office is also keeping a close eye on reports the U.S. may seek to resume underground nuclear testing that was halted more than 20 years ago.
But Sandoval said he has assurances that won’t happen.
“I have been absolutely 100 percent assured there will be no testing,” he said.
Halstead told BoE the bipartisan budget act approved by Congress and the president a week ago includes no funding for Yucca Mountain.
Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., have introduced legislation titled the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act — essentially requiring Nevada’s consent to open the dump in this state. No action has been taken on that legislation.