Yucca Mountain Decision Steals Spotlight at National Clean Energy Summit

Also announced: Moapa Band of Paiutes will build major solar plant


U.S. Senator Harry Reid kicked off his sixth annual green power party, the National Clean Energy Summit, on Tuesday at Mandalay Bay with some good news: a major solar deal that’s been in the works for some time has been sealed. The press on hand, however, was less interested in that than in word coming out of Washington, D.C. that morning that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals there had ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the licensing process for storing toxic waste at Yucca Mountain.

What Reid wanted to shine the spotlight on: A 350-megawatt solar facility on 2,153 acres of land owned by the Moapa Band of Paiutes 30 miles north of Las Vegas is in the final stages of financing, meaning it’s pretty much a done deal. To signify the importance of the Herculean, multi-party, public-private task, Reid was joined at the press conference by Sally Jewell, recently appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior; Eric Lee, Moapa Tribal Council vice chairman; and Gerritt Nichols, managing partner of K Road Power, which will build the solar plant. The Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies were also involved.

“We love this land of ours and plan to use it for bigger and better solar projects,” Lee said. “Now that we’ve explored negotiating big deals like this one, we are willing and able to work with other partners on similar projects.”

It’s a remarkable victory for a tribe that claims to have been poisoned for decades by coal ash from the Reid Gardner plant located adjacent to their land—a plant which NV Energy vowed earlier this year to shut down, along with all its other coal-fired facilities, to make way for renewable generation.

But the Q&A that followed focused solely on the possibility that the Yucca Mountain zombie had once again come back to life.

“This was not unexpected,” Reid said, of the D.C. court’s decision, “but it really doesn’t mean much. … This isn’t even a bump in the road.”

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