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September 2, 2015

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Nye County, Sandoval clash over future of Yucca

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Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

CARSON CITY — Despite the tough words earlier this week by Gov. Brian Sandoval, the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump is still alive.

"It's in suspended animation," said Robert Halstead, executive director of the state's Agency for Nuclear Projects.

A hearing is set for May 2 for oral arguments in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to force the federal government to resume its licensing procedures at Yucca Mountain, where work has been suspended.

The suit is being pursued by Aiken County in South Carolina, and Nye County. It asks the court to order the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume its licensing procedures within 30 days of a decision and the regulatory authority to make a decision within 14 months whether to go forward with the project.

Nye County officials told the Legislative Committee on High Level Radioactive Waste Friday they want the Energy Department to start examining the site again to determine if it is safe.

"We don't know if it's safe to operate," Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen. "Just give us the facts."

The Nye County Commission sent a letter to federal officials earlier this month supporting the placement of the nuclear waste repository in its county. And the governor answered, saying Nye County doesn't speak for Nevada.

Halstead said the governor maintains his firm opposition to Yucca Mountain and he added that developing another site could save the federal government $17 billion-$28 billion. There's a misconception by people in other parts of the nation that Yucca Mountain is ready now to accept waste.

But the site would take many more years to fully develop, Halstead said,

Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas, who represents a good part of the Strip, says he's concerned about the trucks carrying the spent nuclear waste through Clark County to Yucca Mountain. He said the public must understand the hazards of hauling this dangerous waste through populated areas that not only affects the residents but the tourists.

Halstead said the executives in the nuclear industry are worried about competition from low-priced natural gas. He said the concern in the industry is that natural gas prices won't be increasing in the next few years.

Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis said he knew Sandoval was right when he said the county doesn't speak for the state. But he added that Sandoval is changing his tune from his election campaign two years ago.

Hollis said Sandoval should talk to the union workers in Las Vegas "who want jobs."

"They believe it can be done safely," he said.

The legislative committee will meet this summer to draw up its recommendations to present to the 2013 Legislature.

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