Re-opening the high-level nuclear waste project at Yucca Mountain, NV, or finding acceptable alternatives, comes down to politics and economics, according to testimony given at a June 1 House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Economy hearing. \u201cPolitics, not science, is driving the debate,\u201d said Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). Republicans blame the Department of Energy for shutting down the facility based on President Obama\u2019s campaign promises. They cite $15.4 billion spent on designing the repository, and $31 billion collected from utility ratepayers to build it. The hearing was prompted by a June 1 Government Accountability Office report and a recent tour of the site by several lawmakers. Subcommittee members repeatedly berated DOE representative Peter Lyons, assistant secretary for nuclear energy, and Gregory Friedman, inspector general, for what the members perceive as the department\u2019s illegal and unscientific decision to close the facility. DOE announced the decision to halt the facility in March 2010. Department representatives countered that there are acceptable alternatives that, according to Lyons, could avoid costly delays. The quest for a safe facility to store high-level radioactive waste has been in the making for over 50 years. If one is built, it has to last many millennia. Scientists predict the half-life of spent fuel to be 24,000 years. (Half-life is when half the material is rendered neutral.) The choice of the Yucca Mountain site goes back to 1987, noted a Democratic representative on a panel. Rep. Shelley Berkeley (D-NV) said that even back then, the decision was political. At the time, there were three sites in consideration--Hanford, Washington, Deaf Smith County, Texas, and Yucca Mountain. When the Nuclear Waste Act was amended in 1987, picking Yucca, Berkeley blamed it on the lack of proper delegation to derail the site. Thirty years earlier, in 1957, the National Academy of Sciences recommended a geological repository as the best answer to radioactive waste, said Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, Government Accountability Office. He said that now, building dry-cask story on-site at nuclear plants is the \u201cpath of least resistance, but it doesn\u2019t cause the government to take possession of the waste\u201d as law requires. Subcommittee members also decried what they termed DOE\u2019s \u201csocial acceptance policy.\u201d That is, DOE\u2019s stated that facing overwhelming resistance from Nevada, there are other places that could make it easier to build a waste repository. Lyons noted that the prospect of Nevada allowing permits for necessary roads and rails to the site is highly unlikely. High-level waste from nuclear power plants like San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Diablo Canyon, Rancho Seco, and Humboldt Bay was supposed to be sent to Yucca Mountain. As a temporary solution to the growing waste problem, California\u2019s nuclear owners are installing dry cask storage on site.