Las Vegas Casino Execs Pressure Congress to Forgo Funding for Yucca Nuclear Waste Repository

Posted on: April 16, 2019, 09:59h. 

Last updated on: April 16, 2019, 09:59h.

Numerous Las Vegas casino executives are calling on Congress to forgo funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository some 90 miles northwest of the gambling mecca.

Las Vegas casino Yucca Mountain nuclear
Las Vegas casino executives and Nevada government leaders don’t want the country’s nuclear waste coming to Yucca Mountain. (Image: Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

President Donald Trump’s current budget proposal for the Department of Energy (DOE) includes $116 million in federal funds allocated to opening the nuclear facility in the remote Nevada mountain that borders California.

In a letter to the DOE and Congress, top executives of several of Las Vegas’ largest casino operators wrote to “express our vehement opposition to the inclusion of funding for the Yucca Mountain project.” The CEOs said their goal is to make sure “that Yucca Mountain remains part of Nevada’s past and that nuclear waste is never again stored anywhere near the world’s entertainment capital.”

The letter was signed by Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson – who has been the Republican Party’s largest donor in each of the past two election cycles. Other signatories include MGM CEO Jim Murren, Wynn CEO Matt Maddox, and Caesars CEO Mark Frissora.

Yucca Past

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act – signed into law by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1983 – was amended in 1987 by Congress to designate Yucca Mountain “as the only site to be characterized as a permanent repository for all of the nation’s nuclear waste.” But the controversial matter has led to numerous roadblocks in making the facility operational.

President Barack Obama (D) removed funding for Yucca Mountain at the request of former US Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada), a longtime ally to the gaming industry in DC. Now, Trump’s administration is considering reigniting the project.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) is leading the push to block spent nuclear materials from being relocated to the Silver State.

As Nevada leaders – both Democrats and Republicans – have done for decades, my administration and I will continue to oppose the Department of Energy’s unsafe plans for plutonium and nuclear waste storage in our state. As the Defense Nuclear Facilities Board – a federal safety board – pointed out recently, earthquake risks make the Nevada National Security Site unsuitable for plutonium and make Yucca Mountain unsuitable for nuclear waste.”

The governor added, “Furthermore, the proximity of Nellis Air Force Base to both sites increases the unacceptable risk of accidents and exposure of nearby communities to toxic material.”

Politics, Not Science

Sisolak contends that the 1987 decision to designate Yucca as the country’s only viable nuclear repository was reached “on political science, not earth science.” “Nevada will never stop fighting this unsound, unsafe, and costly mistake,” the first-term governor declared.

The letter signed by the gaming executives pointed to the fact that more than 42 million visitors traveled to Las Vegas last year. Adelson and others contend that the threat of nuclear materials being stored just 90 miles away “would unquestionably have severe negative implications for Nevada’s future and economic growth.

MGM Resorts is Nevada’s largest employer. The Nevada gaming industry had 289 casinos that grossed $1 million or more in gross gaming revenue in the 2018 fiscal year, which generated more than $874.3 million in taxes and fees for the state.