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Words from Washington

Yucca Mountain matters to Washington state

Hanford's nuclear history began in the 1940's, with nuclear production at Hanford playing a pivotal role in our nation's defense for decades. An integral part of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort to develop and construct the first atomic bomb, the work done at Hanford helped win World War II. Later, nuclear production at Hanford helped provide the nuclear deterrence that helped defeat communism and win the Cold War.

Today the Hanford site is the world's largest environmental clean-up project - and the high-level defense nuclear waste at Hanford is slated to be shipped to the national repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

That's the plan, that's the law and that was the commitment made to the state of Washington.

Billions of dollars and decades have already been spent studying what to do with nuclear waste - and Yucca Mountain was determined to be the answer. That's why Congress passed a law designating Yucca Mountain as the national repository for high-level defense nuclear waste like that at Hanford and for spent nuclear fuel and has voted to reaffirm that decision several times.

The Obama Administration, however, is ignoring the law and the intent of Congress by shutting down Yucca Mountain in a blatantly political attempt to override science and protect the Democrat Majority Leader of the Senate. Instead, President Obama has formed a new commission to study a problem that already has an answer and put off decisions about nuclear waste until after November.

The commission recently visited Hanford and I took the opportunity to share my thoughts on the danger created by the illegal termination of Yucca Mountain.

With more defense wastes slated to go to Yucca Mountain than any other state in the nation, the stakes for Washington could not be higher and the risks could not be more real.

Delaying or abandoning Yucca Mountain means that Central Washington will be home to high-level defense wastes even longer, the federal government's legal commitment to our state won't be kept, and clean-up progress at Hanford will be jeopardized.

And, recognizing that Hanford was one of three final sites considered for a national repository - we are now faced with the question of if not Yucca Mountain, then where?

I will continue developing bills, offering amendments and calling on this Congress to take advantage of each and every opportunity it has to uphold the law and keep Yucca Mountain moving forward.

- Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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