President-elect Trump must use Nevada’s Yucca Mountain to safely and permanently store radioactive waste.

First, he would be implementing the act of a bipartisan Congress signed by President Reagan. Before and following that legislation, decades of study and billions of dollars led to the selection of Yucca Mountain, adjacent to the former nuclear weapons test site. But a deal between Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Obama kept Yucca Mountain closed, a deal which federal appellate courts held “flount[ed] the law.” The deal was made in spite of a 2014 Obama administration study that found Yucca Mountain will be safe for a million years.

Second, Trump would be saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Energy companies, forced to stow waste outside Yucca Mountain, sued the government and won more than $2 billion. The Congressional Research Service says these awards will exceed $20 billion by 2020 and then will cost $500 million annually. Instead, Trump should spend funds that Congress may appropriate quickly, thus creating jobs while Yucca Mountain is completed.

Third, Trump would be limiting the threat of terrorism. Today, 160,000 assemblies containing 45,000 tons of spent fuel from nuclear power plants are stored across the country. About 156,500 are at places like the recently-shuttered San Onofre plant in southern California. There, a handful of guards, still awaiting federal policy on when they may fire their weapons, have orders to “deter, detect, and flee” perceived threats. Fleeing a terrorist attack involving nuclear waste may work for them, but not for the 13 million people in Los Angeles, less than 50 miles away.

As the Washington Examiner said in their Thursday editorial, it’s time to make Yucca Mountain great again.

William Perry Pendley is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has argued cases before the Supreme Court and worked in the Department of the Interior during the Reagan administration. He is the author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.” Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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