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House Yucca Mountain Advocate Retiring, Exiting Nuke Waste Fight

For two decades Representative John Shimkus has been one of the strongest congressional supporters of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

But that’s about to change.

The downstate Illinois Republican, first elected to Congress in 1997, has announced he will retire at the end of this term.

He has long been an advocate for licensing Yucca Mountain as the nation’s storehouse for more than 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Shimkus tells State of Nevada that he has a grudging respect for the Nevada congressional delegation and its efforts to kill the project.

“They’ve been able to use the political tricks and legislative ability to block funding to finish the license application,” Shimkus said. “I mean that’s really the holdup. The holdup is a minute amount of money to finish the discussion on the science.”

In fact, Shimkus finds it a little funny that Nevada has stopped the money for something it says it wants to see. 

“What Nevada has done by blocking funding is contrary to their own statements they don’t trust the science but they won’t allow us to adjudicate the science because they’re blocking the money,” he said.

Support comes from

Besides holding up the money, Rep. Dina Titus, D-NV., recently tried to add an amendment to a bill on the issue that would have allowed states to say no to taking the waste.

Predictably, Shimkus voted against the amendment.

“I’m not condemning Congresswoman Titus for fighting for this issue,” he said, but he added that allowing states a voice on the issue would allow states to have a veto on issues of national concern.

The congressman's arguments for opening the nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain are: it is the current federal law to put the waste in Nevada, the site is safe and the waste won't interfere with Nevada's tourism industry.

“The fearmongers will say we’re going to take the spent nuclear fuel and we’re going to go down the Strip and that is the most ludicrous argument that I’ve ever heard,” he said.

Shimkus noted that nuclear waste has been transported around the country for 40 years with no problem. 

Shimkus said he looks forward in retirement to seeing more of his family and teaching, volunteering and coaching back home in Illinois. He said he has no plans to lobby on behalf of the nuclear industry.



John Shimkus, congressman, R-Ill.

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