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May 4, 2015

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Monstrous nuclear waste dump just won’t die

Yucca Mountain and the politically undead.

A horror film starring Congressman Mark Amodei, Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis and other smaller actors.

If you follow some of the better zombie movies and vampire offerings on the silver screen, there is one thing they have in common. The dead won’t stay dead and the people who like to drain the lifeblood from innocent people just won’t ever go away. Ever.

The story of Yucca Mountain and the nuclear power industry’s decades-long effort to bury the world’s deadliest garbage just a few miles from the Entertainment and Tourism Capital of the World is a long and sordid story about political intrigue, political weakness and, finally, political courage. Throw in the obligatory pitchfork and torch-wielding citizenry railing against the oppressors and you, well, know the picture. It is a familiar one to Hollywood writers but, I must admit, it is a frustrating saga to those of us whose lives and livelihoods hang in the balance of the movie’s ending.

The election of President Barack Obama brought with it his commitment to end the Yucca Mountain debacle and the 30-year cloud that hung over the futures of all Nevadans. He made good on his promise to close the radioactive dump because it was premised on bad science and bad politics. The other reason, of course, is Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid, who has doggedly fought throughout his career to make sure that Yucca never opened its doors. It also was important that every responsible officeholder in the state was adamantly opposed to the very thought of shipping some other state’s nuclear nightmare into our backyard.

Together, thankfully, the president and Sen. Reid finished the job by zeroing out the Yucca project’s money in the federal budget. Without money, as we have all learned, the government and its pet projects just don’t and can’t work.

But killing a beast like Yucca Mountain is just like running a stake through the heart of a vampire or blasting an already dead zombie who just doesn’t know his time is up. There is always a sequel, always another shot at life after death, always the chance that dead things will come back to haunt us.

That is the story of Yucca Mountain. If you haven’t enjoyed the past three years and the economic devastation that has been visited on Southern Nevada, just wait until people like Amodei and Hollis get their way. We all know what the reports from experts say. If and when Yucca Mountain opens and if and when there is an accident involving a truck or train carrying high-level nuclear waste anywhere near the Strip where millions of tourists provide us a decent standard of living, there will be a precipitous drop of 30 percent in property values, incomes and jobs.

Let’s see. We have just seen tens of thousands of jobs disappear and home values fall through the floor. Can you imagine what another 30 percent decline will do?

Get the picture? In the face of all that, Amodei, Hollis and others want to keep our options open by continuing to fund Yucca Mountain. They haven’t come right out and said it but everyone knows that if Nevada invites that nuclear waste into our backyard, there is no one anyplace else in this country who will help us cart it out when the time comes. We will get to figure out how living things and deadly things can co-exist in Southern Nevada.

Don’t those guys get it? There are plenty of people outside of Nevada who want to shove that garbage down our Yucca Mountain. Why on earth would Amodei and Hollis want to help the enemies of this state?

There are only two reasons I can think of. They are either seriously ill-informed, which I don’t believe for a second, or they have seriously bought into the Republican mantra that says nuclear power — and the money it brings in to the party — is good for children and other living things. And that the vast wasteland that is Nevada will never notice a hundred thousand tons of radioactive garbage polluting our future.

In either case, when politicians try to placate certain moneyed interests in their party, all they really do is create yet another reason for people to vote against them. No one wants to take the risk that we may be right in saying that high-level radioactive waste is bad for all living things. Of course we are right.

The only question that Nevadans should ask is what is wrong with folks like Amodei and Hollis? What could they possibly be thinking?

Or, is it possible that they just aren’t thinking at all?

Brian Greenspun is president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. Yucca Mountain is inevitable. Borders over on Rainbow and Lake Mead a couple years ago had a book for sale about the history of Law Enforcement in Nevada. It had a very telling introduction that bluntly laid things out: Long before it entered into statehood and was still only a territory with no modern borders, Nevada has always been a place where people find their fortunes, not a place to live. Captains of Industry who owned mining companies didn't live here. And the employees who worked for said industries and and associated ones from suppliers to law enforcement all shared the same sentiment. You didn't bring your family here. You'd simply send money back home and join your kin once enough money was made. And if you did have to bring them along, you wouldn't stay to establish roots. You'd move on so that your children wouldn't have to be raised here. From Virginia City, to Nelson's Landing: You didn't stay. Nevada always has been, and always WILL be a transient state.

    I lived in Las Vegas from 1996 until June 2011. In that time I've seen quite a few things. Some being the same changes that all of us saw. Others behind the scenes like when Nevada State Bank cleaned out their warehouse and had me throw away numerous awards and accolades tied to the city's history. All into a dumpster. And I've seen it happen time and time again.

    No one cares about history. The last person who openly tried to preserve and save our heritage was "Buffalo" Jim Barrier (RIP) when he tried to revive Helldorado. No one helped him at the time, and no credit is ever given to him for saving it. He is as forgotten as the people who our streets were once named after before the master planned communities changed them in. There is no history in Vegas because no one cares to preserve nor remember it.

    It doesn't matter how many museums we build, none of us are connected to the history inside. Move to a new city, look at their antiques and histories, and you are given the impression that as a citizen this history is now yours as well. Go into any museum in Nevada, and you don't feel the connection because none of this is yours. You don't know when, but you'll be leaving and you know it. So why become invested? Especially when the community refuses to invest back into you.

    So why should anyone stop Yucca Mountain? No one will be here long enough to see the waste since we're all just biding our time until we leave. None of us are Las Vegans: We just live here long enough to get our finances in order so we can find a better life elsewhere.

  2. Enjoyed the editorial, Mr. Greenspun.

    Also, enjoyed your comment, DMCVegas. Sad way to look at it, but I guarantee that scientists, politicians and others who only want to profit off of Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) hope that people give up and let them have their way.

    One thing for sure is the fact the only people jumping up and down wanting YMP to happen are those that will make a profit off of it. Majority of people I talk to here in Las Vegas simply do not want the nation's entire surplus of nuclear waste garbage piling up 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas here in Southern Nevada.

    I am so glad we have people fighting this right now. I just wished it would have been fought off about 30 years ago. But we were weak politically back then and there was this "Screw Nevada Movement" that was relentless and wouldn't stop where they took scientific evidence, budgetary ideals and other nutball ideas and molded it with only one purpose: THROW THIS STUFF AT NEVADA!

    The most glaring thing that they want people to forget about YMP is the fact that this stuff is the most dangerous substance known to mankind, and if accidentally released, you only get that one chance. There is absolutely no recovery. They want you to forget that by signing off on YMP, sure, it will generate money, and maybe even jobs, but this is in the short run. They want you to forget the long term where, if YMP happens, this stuff will stay there FOREVER, and we are bequeathing this legacy to future generations of Nevadans, who will NEVER, EVER get rid of it. The sad thing about this is they are saddled with a burden that may prove dangerous. And they aren't even born yet. And they will not get anything from it but misery, suffering and maybe even have to handle a catastrophe. They won't get paid for it. THEY GET NOTHING.

    Okay, okay, okay. Let me have it. There are those that claim some stupid abbreviation: NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). To those people, I say this, "YER DAMN RIGHT WE DON'T WANT THIS CRAP!"

    I'm so glad we have politicians who are willing to stand up for us and tell the powers that be that this is enough, we're not taking this stuff.

    And to Amodei and Heck? I say this to them. And this is the God's honest truth. If they both keep pursuing in the Congress to sell out Southern Nevada and make YMP happen, they WILL be committing political suicide. Guaranteed they will be the most hated men in all of Nevada. They won't last AT ALL the next election. They will both lose by landslides. They will only go down in the history books as the ones who destroyed Nevada, only a footnote though in Nevada political history. Mark my words.

    Why is it the Republican Party, not only within Nevada but outside of it, ALL seem to want to gang up on Southern Nevada and force YMP on us? Now people understand why I thoroughly detest the Tea/Republican Party.

  3. Science has shown deep bore holes onsite is the safest solution.

    DMCVegas, your 15 years in Las Vegas makes you an expert on our history? As a 3rd generation Las Vegan I take offense to your statements. Most people that have lived here more than 15 years saw the decline of Vegas from people like you coming here for easy money. It seems we attracted all the low-lifes of the country thinking they could park cars for 100k per year. I also find it amusing that so many that bash Vegas, after they couldn't survive living here, still visit our local newspapers website regularly.

  4. Yucca Mountain is a great thing for Nevada. The sky isn't falling and this editorial is just playing to misguided fears.

    Every day, Semi's hauling Chlorine, Benzine, Sulfuric Acid, Organophospates and heaven knows what else freely rolls through the heart of Las Vegas on I-15. I don't hear the wailing or see the gnashing of teeth about these clearly hazardous chemicals.

    The casks the spent fuel rods are transported in are extremely robust. Any one of the "sky is falling" crowd can watch the videos on YouTube.

    I have read ad nauseum, the blatant misrepresentation of what is in these casks. Some of my fellow posters seem to think that the casks are actually small reactors being carried into Nevada or even worse they think they are nuclear bombs primed and ready to go.

    The article says that bad science and bad politics are too blame. I can one up that; the current fears about Yucca involve bad science, fear mongering and political pandering.

    Yucca means jobs for Nevada and the precious tax base that everybody is clamoring for.

    Yucca should be ran like Republic Services. Gouge the consumer and provide very little customer service.

    One final note: We are not burying the waste FOREVER; we are not putting it there and forgetting about it; we are not letting technology stand still. When reprocessing becomes viable, since Yucca is a repository and not a dump, we can retrieve the casks and start reprocessing or use the material for whatever else NEW TECHNOLOGY will allow.

  5. My thing is this I have seen the casks first hand I have hauled these things before in my train. But someone answer this if these casks are so dependable and leak proof then why not store them on site. Why the need for the extra layer of protection? Also if this stuff is going to be valuable later wouldn't it be better to have it on hand as opposed in someone Else's control.
    "It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it"
    Me personally I see it as the Privatize the Profits and Socialize the Expenses Business Model.

    I thought that these companies applied for a lic. to construct a Nuclear Plant also agreed to store the waste on site, Or at least until they acquire what they wanted then they want to enter into novation.

  6. Nuclear fuel rod reprocessing makes sense. Storing these fuel rods on-site in hundreds of temporary water cooled holding tanks makes no sense. Just do the mistake probability math. Fear runs rampant when discussing the transportation of spent fuel rods. Outside of nuking them nothing you can do to harm these rods during transport would give cause for serious concern. How many thousands of gasoline fuel trucks are on the road every day? How often do they crash and burn? And we should worry about the occasional nuclear fuel rod truck? Nuclear fuel rods are transported in a protective casing and even if they were not encased, the metal is so heavy any dislodged particles would not go very far. It's just a local ground level contaminant cleanup issue. If one wants to worry a little, consider how many military shells use depleted uranium. After reprocessing, the next best solution is to dump these spent fuel rods into the Pacific Ocean. The 7 mile deep, 1500 mile long Marianas Trench works for me. Unfortunately international law does not allow this.

  7. Point One and probably Match Point is what Mr. Greenspun points out and none of the nuclear industry shills (or short sighted thinkers) in this thread acknowledge - unless we are willing to give up our status of one of the World's Greatest Gambling, Food, Entertainment & General Vacation destinations (which obviously we are not), the mere "idea" of having the nation's nuclear dump site a scant 90 miles from our population center would in and of itself, irrespective of the so-called science, be devastating to our community. It would, undeniably, end Vegas as we know it (and a lot of state's with their own gambling/tourism interests would not weep a tear). All the gas and chemical and even nuke trucks that currently flow through our highway system are for better or worse not on their radar. Yucca is. No one wants to go to an amusement part next to Love Canal, irrespective of how the cleanup went. It's as our former Mayor Goodman used to say, "Perception over reality." So take all your arguments that it will cost us tons of cash (from who it's supposed to come though still a mystery. A strapped US Government? Profit driven nuke industry? Please. They will give us the fair value for storing the nation's waste as much as mining will pay their fair share for the State of Nevada's future). Take your arguments that it's safe. (Again, so safe that every state is BEGGING to take the nuke waste). Show me one other state that is willing to take this stuff given all the benefits and safety. ONE ! I mean I know we have a reputation for being the smartest state in the union, I never realized just how smart we are... We're the ONLY ones who see the value of a nuke dump near a pop center. And Amodei is the smartest. Based on his "gut" (and all that experience as a US representative), he's willing to keep the debate open without so much as a statistic or a number. Without a worst case scenario analysis of impact on tourism or hard numbers of how much money it would allegedly make the State and how that money can be guaranteed. You know what? If you really want to "profit" over Yucca, Mr. Amodei, you should ask the Nuke Industry on good faith to plug our budget deficit while we "mull it over." Until then, kill it. Shut your mouth. Do what it takes to keep this away from the people who do not produce this garbage or in any way benefit from nuclear power. And while you're at, lets change the name of Yucca mountain. It sounds so... um, Yucca-y. Let's try Big Rock Candy Mountain. Dare anyone to store waste there...

  8. Yucca Mountain, poses no threat to Las Vegas residents. Our predominante wind flow is toward southren Utah. Remember the downwinders in the 50's, yelp, they ate the Nuclear Fallout from the governments testing. Now here lies the problem. Since the property belongs to the people, built by the people, the people should recieve the money that is charged for the ground, upkeep, maintenance and storage. NOT TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR THEM TO WASTE.

  9. Let New Mexico take the stuff, they WANT it!

    They have had decades of active testing and interaction with nuclear materials. They welcome the stuff.

    Also, while you are visiting the Los Alamos Laboratory facility, talk to the locals and find out what a financial boon it is for their local and personal economy! It is one of the biggest illusions that BIG MONEY can be made by taking this high level radioactive waste.

    Nevadans DO NOT want high level radioactive waste in their state and by their homes. If they did, they would be falling over each other, screaming in the news media to bring it here.

    Perception is one factor, how it would affect property values and being comfortable visiting a place with such dangerous materials. We are already suffering with bottomed out property values, high utility bills, and salary freezes. And if we are having problems with killing off pedestrians, just add high level radioactive waste traveling through your local neighborhood!!! GEZ!

    The People of Nevada simply cannot take anymore. Our losses are simply UNacceptable as it is now, and would be far worse if Yucca Mountain opened up.

    Blessings and Peace,

  10. It is amazing how few people know where Yucca Mtn is.

    Let me help you. It is next to the Nevada Test Site. We tested nuclear bombs there, among other things.

    I guess since the majority of the posters are from Nevada they would at least know the State before spouting off about some fantasy location.

    btw, Dayvid, still helping out Harry??

  11. @ LynnJohnson (Lynn Johnson)

    Of course you take offense at my statements. They don't suit you nor your viewpoint. As someone who actually did spend time in Nevada schools, I can attest first hand that yes, I absolutely know more about Las Vegas and Nevada history than anyone else who claims to have any long-standing roots/ties to either. Why? Because unlike people such as yourself I didn't take Las Vegas for granted. And as such while we're on the subject, unless you're a full-blooded Southern Paiute, you have no claims of superiority over anyone who moved here 60 days ago, or even 60 YEARS ago. The truth is that you're just the same as everyone else: your arrival date is just different.

    I don't bash Las Vegas nor Nevada. I do however bash on people such as yourself who have entitlement issues. The "Us Versus Them" attitude of not even native, but acclimated Las Vegans is what has killed Las Vegas. Especially on the road. Drive a car with out of state plates, especially ones from California, and see just how much worse your drive is. Go pick up a rental car, and then see how many people cut you off, or speed up when you have your signal on. Then drive a car with Nevada plates and see how much easier driving is. License plates alone are such an elitist issue that the DMV started charging fees for people to keep their old numbers when they transferred tags over to new cars because it's such a perceived status symbol.

    And what exactly do you consider "surviving Las Vegas" when it comes to living there? What is that measurement of living? Because honestly it's a no-win situation. Although considering how many locals never actually loose at slot machines, they jokingly always "break-even", no one ever actually "looses" while living in Las Vegas. Gamble too much? Oh, you're a degenerate gambler who can't handle living here. Don't gamble much at all? Oh, what are you, a Mormon?

    If there was one thing that I couldn't "survive" as you so put it, it was a lack of community because of the inhospitable environment created by people like you. No only the constant engaging in "class warfare" like this, but the lack of support by people like you who claimed to be "Better Las Vegans" yet never fought to preserve Vegas. You and the two generations before you didn't stop Bill Tomiyasu from being swindled out of his farmland so it could be paved into mansions, you didn't stop Summerlin from tearing up the west side of the valley, and the list goes on and on. Long before I arrived you destroyed Las Vegas, and now want to blame newcomers for YOUR past mistakes. Fine.


  12. (...continued)

    We came here not to develop nor flip real estate, especially since we didn't elect those officials who expedited the projects (you did), and we wanted to join you. But people like you chased us off. Fine.

    Years from now when your grandchildren's children lay dying in their hospital beds, riddled with cancer that Yucca Mountain caused and as "Why?" this happened to them, your descendants will answer "Strength in Numbers". Then they'll explain that there wasn't enough people to fight Yucca Mountain, and they can pull up your archived post and explain that there wasn't enough people to fight because YOU chased off the people who would have been willing to stay and help you.

  13. DMC, "Years from now when your grandchildren's children lay dying in their hospital beds, riddled with cancer that Yucca Mountain caused"


    Don't let fear-mongering stand in the way of your specious argument.

  14. It is a simple fact an overwhelming majority of Nevadas citizens do not want our state to be a nuclear dumping ground of other states problems. South Carolina especially how about trying to be accountable for your own mistakes and as for mark amodie I believe he would sell his soul to the devil to make a dollar.

  15. There is no amount of money for the "processing" of nuclear waste that could ever be enough. I think it is time for Nevadans to develop a sense of future in this state and to take care of the resources we have. There will be no undoing of a nuclear spill accident. We will all lose our livelihoods, our homes, our communities. . .and for what? Some dollars from the moneychangers? This is not an issue of class warfare or South Carolina versus Nevada. It is an issue of what is the safest way to store this waste. From everything I know and have read, the safest storage is close to where the rods are spent. All future reactors should be built with that in mind. So let's forget this business of travelling across this country with nuclear waste. It's deadly, dangerous, unnecessary and not worth it. Our government already wasted years and billions in trying to turn Yucca mountain into a safe storage area. It cannot be done there.

    One question: If Ohio can vote in a state referendum to not accept Obamacare, why can't we vote as a state as to whether we want to be the national repository of every other state's nuclear garbage? Wouldn't that be in line with the State's rights trend?