Negotiate for Yucca?

A recent caller to the world headquarters of the Reno News & Review posed an interesting question: Given that nuclear waste storage near Las Vegas is a done deal, shouldn’t Nevada politicians negotiate to get as much cash from the federal government as possible before we get the radioactive waste and the shaft?

It was only a few years ago, back when the congressional contingent was Democratic and before George W. Bush signed the bill that would make Nevada the central repository for the nation’s nuclear waste, that the answer was a slam-dunk, resounding, “No.” But things have changed.

The logic then was that any sign of dissent from the fight-Yucca-at-all-costs plan was an indication of weakness. Any negotiation might be interpreted as acquiescence.

But things are different now. Bush did break his promise to wait for the science before signing any Yucca plan, and he signed up Nevada to store the deadliest substance known to man. Then the Republican Party wrote a plank into their platform that called for the state to negotiate “to minimize negative impacts from federal control and exploitation of federally-managed lands in Nevada.”

Nevada Republican leadership immediately put their hands over their butts and shuffled away from the issue, allowing the platform plank with little discussion.

So, now it’s out there. It’s a clear delineation between the Democrats and the Republicans this election. The thing is, the argument for negotiation isn’t without merit. The times have changed. The poverty-stricken cow counties could reap some decent benefits. A 300-mile train track through central Nevada could be a boon (if only the feds were pursuing the most environmentally and publicly sound methods of scoping the plan). It’s said the track could cost as much as $880 million to build and could be ready in four years.

That’s just one potential benefit. It’s true that when the federal government shoves that radioactive waste straight down Nevada’s throat, we’re going to be sorry we didn’t negotiate. Add the fact that the person in charge of fighting Yucca Mountain in the courts, Nevada’s Attorney General Brian Sandoval, is a member of the Republican Party—the party that has decided to negotiate with the feds—and the reasons for not backing negotiation seem even more remote.

On the other hand, nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain has the potential to poison the air, land and water for hundreds of thousands of years. Nevadans need to remember that when they talk about selling out the environment of an entire state for a few dirty bucks.