Nevada GOP Senate hopeful backed Yucca nuclear waste site

By Timothy Cama | 05/02/2024 06:39 AM EDT

Democrats seized on the hot-button issue, accusing Republican Sam Brown of wanting to turn Nevada into the “nation’s dumping ground for toxic waste.”

Sam Brown.

Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown in 2022. Comments from that year reveal he supported storing nuclear waste in Nevada. Josh Edelson/Getty Images

Recently surfaced comments from a Republican Senate candidate in Nevada show he once supported storing nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain site, breaking with longtime bipartisan rejection of the proposal in the state.

Sam Brown, the front-runner in the GOP primary, made the comments at a 2022 campaign event in Henderson. The Los Angeles Times obtained and published those comments Tuesday. He now says he won’t rule out seeking its revival in the future.

Democrats seized on the news. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who is up for reelection to the seat and could face Brown in November, said via a spokeperson that Brown wants to “turn Nevada into the nation’s dumping ground for toxic waste.”


At the 2022 event, Brown called the failure to establish the repository an “incredible loss of revenue for our state.”

“If we don’t act soon, other states … are assessing whether or not they can essentially steal that opportunity from us,” he said, pointing to proposals in places like New Mexico.

“We all know that Nevada could use another great source of revenue and it sure would be a shame if we didn’t monopolize on that and become a central hub of new development that we can do at Yucca.”

A 1987 law designated Yucca Mountain to be the nation’s high-level nuclear waste repository, and some federal officials have worked on and off for decades to make it a reality.

Waste has been piling up at nuclear power plants and elsewhere in the meantime. At a recent House hearing Republicans — and even some Democrats — voiced curiosity about reviving Yucca.

Yucca Mountain.
People leave the south portal of Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour in 2018. | John Locher/AP

Nevada leaders have fought against the repository on a bipartisan basis, citing fears over contamination, despite assurances from industry and other supporters.

Killing it was a top priority of the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate’s Democratic leader for a decade, who wielded a variety of powers to block it.

President Joe Biden opposes the repository, and his Department of Energy has not taken any action toward getting it built. Former President Donald Trump initially supported it but flipped in 2020 ahead of that year’s election, where Nevada was a key swing state.

Asked about the report, Brown did not give Yucca a full endorsement but stopped short of ruling it out.

“I am not strictly committed to opening Yucca Mountain at this time,” he said in a statement. “However, I will consider all thoroughly vetted future proposals, with the safety of Nevadans being my top priority, while ensuring the proposals are substantially economically beneficial.”

Brown’s campaign spokesperson added that he would scrutinize any proposal to establish the repository.

“Sam’s first priority will always be the safety and security of Nevadans, our water, and our environment. If a proposal isn’t explicitly proven to be demonstrably safe, he will not support it,” said spokesperson Kristy Wilkinson.

Rosen, who Brown would face if he wins next month’s GOP primary, slammed the former Army captain, while Democrats sought to use the comments to hurt his campaign. The race is expected to be very close and could determine party control of the Senate.

“Nevada Republicans and Democrats have been fighting against storing dangerous nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain for decades, but Sam Brown agrees with the D.C. politicians in Congress who still want to turn Nevada into the nation’s dumping ground for toxic waste,” said Rosen spokesperson Johanna Warshaw.

The Nevada Democratic Party released a video highlighting the story Wednesday.

“Nevada’s opposition to Yucca Mountain has always been bipartisan,” the video says. “But MAGA extremist Sam Brown supports making Nevada the country’s nuclear waste dumping ground.”

Wilkinson accused Rosen of playing politics on Yucca,” saying she “is continuing the Harry Reid machine’s dirty political tactic of fear-mongering for votes — just in time for her struggling reelection bid.”