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May 4, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Editorial: Five reasons why those who support Yucca Mountain are wrong

Latest attempts to rally support for nuclear waste dump are disingenuous


Sam Morris

Atop Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, signs warn of possible radiation near a test well.

The Nye County Commission recently sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu all but begging to make Yucca Mountain a high-level nuclear waste dump. The letter is part of a desperate push by dump supporters and the nuclear energy industry to revive the plans for Yucca Mountain, which has been all but dead since President Barack Obama’s order to shutter the project.

The president’s decision hasn’t stopped the nuclear energy industry and its supporters, who have tried to force the issue over Nevada’s objections for years. Consider the “Screw Nevada” bill in 1987, which bypassed a full scientific selection process to designate Yucca Mountain as the nation’s sole nuclear waste dump.

Now, they are trumping up Nevada’s “support” via Nye County, which has long been in the minority for its stance on the dump. And last week, a group called Nevadans 4 Carbon Free Energy announced a poll purportedly showing that Nevadans don’t want Yucca Mountain closed. The group and others have been pushing to keep Yucca Mountain open as a research park for research and development of nuclear waste reprocessing.

As we have noted, there are problems with the ill-conceived and exorbitantly expensive plans for Yucca Mountain, but here are a few things to consider about the current arguments being made:

    • Nye County supports it

      A farm on Homestead Road displays Pahrump's rural heritage. The majority of Nye County's population lives in Pahrump.

      A farm on Homestead Road displays Pahrump's rural heritage. The majority of Nye County's population lives in Pahrump.

      The president’s blue-ribbon panel on nuclear waste recently recommended the government find places that want nuclear waste instead of forcing it on a state, thus prompting Nye County’s solicitation.

      However, Gov. Brian Sandoval last week wrote to the Energy Department reaffirming Nevada’s opposition, noting that “Nye County cannot and does not speak for the state of Nevada.”

      Indeed. According to the Census Bureau, Nye County has less than 2 percent of the state’s population, and its consent doesn’t mirror the state’s views.

      Consider that since the “Screw Nevada” bill passed, every governor and U.S. senator, positions that require statewide votes, has actively opposed Yucca Mountain.

    • ‘People are for it’

A tunnel inside Yucca Mountain is shown in 1999. The Obama administration announced Friday the formation of a panel to study nuclear waste disposal alternatives.

      So what about this new poll that purportedly shows support for Yucca Mountain? People who responded to the poll were told that Yucca Mountain “is no longer being actively developed to store the waste.” Odd that there’s no mention of the nuclear energy industry’s continued push, isn’t it? Then, people asked if they were in favor of keeping Yucca Mountain open “for the study and potential reprocessing of nuclear waste into usable energy because of the jobs and money such a would bring into the state or close Yucca Mountain altogether to help protect Nevada’s environment.”

      Seriously? That’s like asking, “Are you in favor of jobs or against them?”

      Instead, ask if people want nuclear waste hauled across the nation and tucked into Yucca Mountain, which isn’t really a mountain but a volcanic ridge, and see what they say. In polls over the years, Nevadans have shown their opposition to making the state a nuclear waste dump time and again.

    • Nevada Energy Park

      The nuclear energy industry supporters say the nation shouldn’t let all the money spent on Yucca Mountain go to waste, thus the effort to create an “energy park” for research and development of nuclear waste reprocessing.

      However, reprocessing is already being studied in laboratories elsewhere, and there is no reason to think that scientists would move their labs to a site 100 miles from Las Vegas where the draw would be ... a huge hole in the ground.

      The energy park is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to keep Yucca Mountain open. If there’s research and the potential to reprocess it, that would mean there would need to be nuclear waste on site. Thus, Yucca Mountain becomes a de facto nuclear waste dump.

      Sneaky, isn’t it?

    • ‘We could negotiate for benefits’

      The Energy Department has spent $10 billion over the past 20 years developing Yucca Mountain. Now, the agency is poised to file its 10,000-page license application. A review lasting as long as four years would then be conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

      Some of the dump’s supporters say that Nevada should negotiate with the federal government for benefits in return for taking the waste dump. But who’s going to write the check? The members of Congress pushing this?

      In 2002, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., one of the biggest dump supporters in Congress, called on Nevada to “fulfill (its) nuclear legacy and continue to aid this nation and our citizens” by taking the waste.

      On the floor of the House, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., recently said his state should have the “right” to “be rid of this waste.”

      “Nevada must either rebate the billions of dollars already spent on Yucca Mountain or stand out of the way and allow the facility to open for business,” Duncan said.

      That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to cut a check but someone who would agree with Shimkus that Nevada should do its duty and quiet down.

    • The bottom line

      There has been discussion that there are jobs to be had with Yucca Mountain. There will be jobs during construction, but after that, how many people does it take to baby-sit nuclear waste? And if this is such a good deal for Nevada, wouldn’t the other states — especially those with waste in them — be lining up for these jobs?

      They’re not, and they don’t want to make a deal, either. They want Nevada to take the waste. Period.

      Nevada’s leaders shouldn’t be fooled by any of these disingenuous and manipulative attempts to rally support for Yucca Mountain. The fact remains that Yucca Mountain is bad policy and Nevadans don’t want it. It’s past time for the nation to move on.

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    1. Re Future. The "future" of Yucca Mountain is secured. It is, and will remain closed. While casting all the "blame" on "liberals" for the dumps demise, you neglect to mention the state's GOP stalwarts Kenny Guinn, Dean Heller, Jon Porter, Brian Sandoval, etc., who all opposed, or are opposed, to this being rammed down Nevada's throat. The only quisling shill for the dump is Bob List who is on the Nuke industry's payroll. Two more dupes who seem to want to keep this boondoggle alive are Mark Amodei (research facility fan), and Joe Heck who really hasn't stated his position, so he is a defacto supporter of it. Nevadans across the board are opposed to the dump. Maybe you could spell out YOUR reasons for supporting it and not someone else's talking points. By the way, transportation of ANYTHING is never "totally safe".

    2. Re BCDave. The South Caroline representative's statement that his state has the "right" to be "rid of this waste" is breathtaking in it's arrogance. Part of reaping the benefits of nuclear power in any state that uses it, is the RESPONSIBILITY to contain the waste generated at the plant. Ron Paul said it best: "No state has the right to force any other state to take nuclear waste" (paraphrased). "What do you do with it?"...why is it Nevada's problem to answer that question? The "Screw Nevada" legislation was Congress's answer to that question. A true NIMBY response. Nye county wants the stuff, but as Brian Sandoval said, Nye county doesn't speak for the state of Nevada. Neither do the representatives of Illinois or South Carolina. There are plenty of viable locations to store nuclear waste besides Nevada. It's time for Congress to start looking for one.

    3. Enjoyed the editorial.

      One thing that is for certain is that our elected politicians here in Nevada need to understand to their very souls that any stance regarding opening Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) will be an immediate harbinger of their political suicide.

      Right now, Amodei and Heck are in the gunsights next election for their stance regarding YMP happening. They will understand that their position is unpopular and politically will be like touching the electrified third rail on the train tracks.

      Call me wrong all you want, but the Nye County Commissioner is now in this boat too. You can't tell me that everyone over there wants this to happen.

      We hold their feet to the fire.

      This editorial is correct with the fact that Nevada does not want YMP.

      We don't take kindly with politicans from other States trying to tell us what to do also.

      And worst of all, we detest politicians here in Nevada doing the bidding of politicians from other States who only want to get rid of their nuclear trash and dump it here.

    4. BCDave: "If a terrorists commanded an airplane into one, there is a disaster waiting to happen in every residential area where there are facilities."

      Please explain how a nuclear reactor is 'safe' by removing the spent fuel? The reactor remains and the unspent fuel remains. Would it not be easier for a terrorist to breach a shipment on our highways then in a highly secured nuclear reactor site? Wouldn't that be a disaster waiting to happen?

      "We're closing coal plants by the droves and cannot replace a 600 megawatt unit with a solar plant or wind farm"

      Guess you haven't heard of natural gas. Now cheaper than nuclear power, in abundance, cleaner than coal, no long term waste, etc.

      "I've worked with this stuff for years and handled safely it can be transported safely"

      Sounds like you're making an argument to leave this 'safe' material where it sits. Science has said deep bore holes onsite is a safer solution than transporting to an unstable volcanic ridge. Science did not choose Yucca Mountain...scientists were tasked with making Yucca work...there are cheaper and safer alternatives (granite entombment, salt mines).

    5. There is only one reason not to activate Yucca and it isn't scientific.

    6. New Mexico is begging for the opportunity to take the high level radioactive waste, and they are also currently equipped to do so. Let them have it!

      For Jim Reid's, "When it is a project like "Obamacare" they won't even discuss it and their leaders tell us it must pass before we can even see what is in it," he has a valid point.

      Last night while having our Saint Patrick's Day meal, my son and I discussed the proposed ObamaCare, and had no clue about where it is in legislation and WHO it will really serve. That should not be. The People have the right to know what is going on in all the governance that affects us, and we should have a voice in it.

      With "ObamaCare," it might be said:
      "True enough. There certainly is truth in what you are implying. What you have written happens to be true. But isn't it also true that truth is relative and that what may appear to be true, in its nearest approach to truth, is a form of non-truth meant to conceal the true nature of truth?" Harry Hughes on Relativism

      With that thought, Blessings and Peace,

    7. davelv: "while natural gas is cleaner than coal, it still puts out tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide which nuclear power does not."

      But nuclear power comes with a 100,000 year waste problem. High level nuclear waste is not exactly good for the environment. Nuclear power is not cheap when including the cost of storing the waste.

      I'm actually for an all of the above strategy to our energy needs. Focusing on renewables, but realizing the need for traditional sources while the renewable infrastructure is built out.

      Cutting pollution to zero is an expensive fantasy, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't find ways to reduce emissions where we can until renewables are the sole source of our energy sometime in the future.

      So, Yes I'd support natural gas over coal, because it's moving in the right direction, reducing harmful emissions. I support nuclear power until we can wean ourselves from it, but I do not support an ill-conceived plan at Yucca Mountain, there are better alternatives. The key word there is WEAN, as in a slow, progressive, goal of clean energy.

    8. Several points:

      A. The opening photo of a well, marked because there is radiation underground, is extremely misleading. Geologic exploration uses sealed radiation sources to measure such things as structure and moisture underground. The State of Nevada's geologists, and university geology programs use such 'sealed sources.' When you are done with the tests, you pull the sealed source back up and put in a shielded container and put it in your pickup and move on to the next well. You also take all the warning signs with you to the next well to be tested. The way this photo is used is egregious Yellow Journalism.

      1. Nye County wants this economic lifeline. They have sent representatives to Carlsbad, New Mexico, several times, where a nuclear waste repository is operating for 13 years now, and they have seen how a project of this sort can stabilize a local economy for multiple generations. Urban Nevadans don't give a hoot about the economic plight of rural Nevadans. Many probably don't even know there is such a thing as a rural Nevadan.

      2. The People are For It piece: actually, I hate to admit, makes a point about the nature of the question. Responses were positive, but for an alternative use of the property.

      3. I also agree that the full-blown Energy Park idea is not a sustainable one, not without a repository nearby. Expanding UNLV's current program in nuclear science and engineering would make more sense, perhaps with a new research facility that can use radioactive materials in Nye County, perhaps at Yucca, although there is no real benefit to being underground for such work with the massive infrastucture required to keep such a place operating and powered and ventilated.

      4. The 'benefits' discussion: others have already addressed the state of South Carolina point of view about the defense waste they store for the nation. But the example of New Mexico, which for 20 years had its highway and other infrastructures improved at federal expense, in direct compensation for taking the nation's first geologic repository is instructive. It has to be negotiated for. If you don't ask, you don't get. If you say you don't see a negotiating table, it is because you have said you will not negotiate!

      5. The photo of Yucca in its beautiful state of isolation never fails to impress people from out of state that this site is a great choice! But my comment on this section is the statement that no state wants it. Wrong. New Mexico's governor sent a letter to Secretary Chu asking the Department of Energy to show through science that other wastes can be safely disposed in its salt beds, and then to come talk terms (negotiate!) with the state. I have heard rumors three other states have sent somewhat similar letters, but cannot confirm it: I am not an investigative reporter. But I would like to be one, and would be, if the Sun makes me a great offer.

    9. Re davelv. What a laughable post. Plants in Washington and South Carolina produce electricity for consumers in those states. It is a stretch to say they were built to "win the Cold War". Times have changed since the '50's when nobody really had a clue about the damages caused by Nuclear testing at the Nevada test site. Even if your assumption about the plants in Washington, South Carolina and many more states was true, how can that be a rationalization for dumping the waste in Nevada? Let the states that produce Nuclear power deal with their own waste issues. My initial post stated that and there is no argument that stands the smell test to contradict it.

    10. The headline for the article promises 5 reasons to kill Yucca Mountain.

      I didn't see them. I read general discussion, questions and criticism of proponents but no reasons not to. The format of the piece is lousy, no one cares about arrowed tabs and pictures we have all seen before. Try a logical argument laid out point by counterpoint.

      As for calling Yucca Mountain a volcanic ridge... really? I wonder if the author has been to the Pacific Rim? Using that logic, I would ask him to name a mountain that isn't a volcanic ridge, the implication being instability. If depositing waste on the moon was economically viable I guess the author would object on the grounds that the moon might fall out of orbit and crash into the earth.

    11. Studies show education levels are higher in areas around nuclear facilities. Research and development from the nuclear industry increases education levels.

      Yucca is safe and Nevada is missing out.

      We apparently aren't smart enough to even see this.

    12. In the wake of the fukushima disaster, the fate of the world should be decided by the combined brain trust of the great metropolis of Tonopah and world renown academic center of Pahrump !

    13. Gary, both Washington and South Carolian had many US government reactors making plutonium for bombs, for the Cold War effort. That they later added a few commercial reactors is not why they are suing the federal government for not taking their waste. It is the massive amount of fuel and high-level waste from the Cold War effort that is behind their lawsuit. That is waste created for the sake of the entire nation, not for making local power.

    14. I think Pahrumps Academic center is in the basement of the house of ill repute.

    15. I don't buy some of these commenters and their cases that we should accept the entire nation's surplus of nuclear garbage here in Nevada.

      One commenter makes a generalization that the populace that lives around nuclear energy industry tends to be a lot smarter.

      That may be, but what exactly is the knowledge level of people who live next to a garbage dump?

      Not really saying much, is it?

      We continue the fight. We hold EVERY politician's feet to the fire who wants Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) to happen.

      They need to continually be reminded they are not going to remain elected if they stand for YMP to happen.

      Just as a reminder for voters out there, Mr. Romney, when he campaigned in South Carolina, was asked by Governor Haley there what he was going to do about YMP. Mr. Romney emphatically told the Governor of South Carolina that when he becomes President, he will get it opened and dump all of South Carolina's nuclear trash in Nevada.

      If (and it actually looks like it will happen) Mr. Romney is picked as the Tea/Republican Party candidate to run for President, people REALLY, REALLY need to remember that when they go to the voting booths in November 2012.

      In my book, that makes Mr. Romney unelectable, and he has definitely went down on record and stated his position that he totally agrees with the "Screw Nevada" initiative and put the most harmful substance known to mankind here...even if we don't want it.