Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

We won’t do that

Talk of negotiating for benefits in return for nuke waste is laughable

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In what has become a delicious parody on campaigning, Marvin E. Quasniki is running for the Republican presidential nomination. A “turquoise farmer” from Tonopah, Quasniki isn’t a real candidate: He’s a puppet created by the Jim Henson Company.

He does, however, talk politics and make light of the issues. In an interview with our Washington correspondent, Karoun Demirjian, Quasniki took on the Yucca Mountain project, the plan to put the nation’s nuclear waste in a volcanic ridge 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“Basically, Nevada, you’ve got a problem there where there’s a lot of unemployed people. So basically, Nevada should become the state of, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that!’ You know, give us your nuclear crap and send us that crud and we’ll take it and we’ll deal with it. ... Nevada should be ‘We’ll do that!’ Then the next thing you know, other states are like, ‘Well, who’s doing that? Oh, they’re doing that? Nevada’s doing that? Well, why didn’t we say we’d do that?’”

In a moment of life imitating parody, Nevada’s newest member of Congress, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, is supporting talks of bringing high-level nuclear waste to the state. In a statement on his website, Amodei said he believes the Energy Department should continue to fund the project and Congress should develop it into not just a dump but also as a “bastion for nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Amodei argues that Nevada should “work to dictate the terms of the repository under the best conditions for our state. This facility has the potential to not only be a job creator in Nye County, but also throughout the state if done properly.”

Or, as Quasniki put it, “Yeah, we’ll do that.”

Amodei’s view is just as fictional as Quasniki’s candidacy, and he’s parroting a fairy tale penned by the nuclear power industry, which has long pined to dump its waste in Nevada. The whole argument is better left to parody because it is disingenuous.

Yucca Mountain a job creator? Other than the temporary construction work, how many people does it take to babysit high-level nuclear waste? A center for research and reprocessing? Neither the nuclear power industry nor Yucca Mountain’s supporters have argued for doing anything other than making the site a nuclear waste dump. No one could reasonably believe that researchers would uproot their labs to follow the waste.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, one of the leaders in the fight against Yucca Mountain, told Reno’s “Nevada NewsMakers” last week the belief that there’s any type of financial reward attached to Yucca Mountain “absolutely is utterly false.”

“There has never been any money promised us in terms of real money out there,” Bryan said. “The industry itself has never offered anything and nor has the federal government. And I guess I would say that even if some money were offered, in my view this is a question of health and safety.”

In an interview with the Nevada News Bureau, Amodei defended his statement, saying he never said the state should take the dump outright. “I said, ‘It ain’t dead and we ought to talk,’” Amodei said.

But what’s to talk about?

For three decades, Nevadans, both Republicans and Democrats, have fought the Energy Department’s effort to create a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. President Barack Obama has ordered the Energy Department to shut down work on it. That provoked a backlash among the nuclear power industry’s supporters in Congress who have been desperately trying to revive it. Thanks to Nevada’s congressional delegation, particularly Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, those efforts haven’t gotten far.

This isn’t the time to roll over and say Nevada should start negotiating to take nuclear waste but the time to finish it.

If anything, the Quasniki parody shows how ludicrous it is to take high-level nuclear waste in the hope of receiving some economic benefit. It would just make Nevada the state that will do anything for a buck, and that’s hardly something to aspire to.

At least when Quasniki says it, it’s a joke. When a sitting member of Congress says it, it’s not so funny.

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