Nuclear Nevada

By the time you read this, the first U.S. Department of Energy public hearing on Yucca Mountain’s possible recommendation as the nation’s nuclear waste dump is in the past (unless a lawsuit stopped the Wednesday hearing, slated to be held at DOE offices in North Las Vegas and teleconferenced in Reno, Carson City and Elko). Two more hearings are scheduled for Sept. 12 in Amargosa Valley and Sept. 13 in Pahrump. The official public comment period on the issue ends Sept. 20, a mere month after the Aug. 21 release of the Yucca Mountain Preliminary Site Suitability Evaluation Report.

And then, despite Nevada’s fight that now spans nearly a decade and a half, the site will be officially chosen as the nation’s only permanent nuclear waste facility—barring a miracle.

Nevada’s congressional delegation is furious. They demanded that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham attend the hearings. They also said one month for public comment is ridiculous and demanded that the period be extended. Both these are reasonable demands, to be sure—but Abraham essentially ignored them. As of the RN&R’s press deadline, before the Wednesday hearing, groups such as the Las Vegas-based Nuclear Waste Task Force, which distributes information on Yucca Mountain, were threatening the aforementioned lawsuit to stop the proceedings. Meanwhile, Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects—a branch of the governor’s office—was doing the best it could to encourage the public to comment.

Meanwhile, protests are going on around Las Vegas. But on the other side of the fence, a former Nevada governor—turncoat Robert List—is now on the nuclear industry’s side.

The angry rhetoric, the public hearings, the fact that List sold out—these are all signs that, barring a miracle, nuclear waste is coming to Nevada. John Ensign and Harry Reid and Jim Gibbons and Shelley Berkley and Kenny Guinn will do all they can to stop it, but George W. Bush will accept Abraham’s recommendation to bring the waste to Yucca. It’s the only site being considered, after all.

It’s been a good fight. But, sadly, it appears that the fight is coming to an end.

It’s kind of ironic that in the last election, Nevada’s four electoral votes gave the election to George W. Bush. After all, if Nevada voted Gore, Florida would have been a non-issue.

And it will be interesting to see what happens to the Republicans if the project is indeed approved. Ensign, Guinn and Gibbons have all claimed that their shared party affiliation with the president would mean they’d have his ear. This proved not to be the case. They shouldn’t get blamed for Yucca’s seeming imminent approval, but some folks will blame them by association.

Also, I have a hunch that any Republican presidential nominees will be able to kiss Nevada’s electoral votes goodbye in the near future.

It’s strange to be asking these kinds of questions. After all, it always appeared Nevada had a glimmer of hope to win this battle.

And just because that glimmer is fading, it doesn’t mean the fight should be given up. Turn in any comments you may have by Sept. 20 to:

Carol Hanlon
Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office
Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
U.S. Department of Energy, M/S 025
P.O. Box 30307
North Las Vegas, NV 89036-0307
Fax: (800) 967-0739

Who knows? Maybe a miracle will happen. But with George W. Bush in office, don’t count on it.