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November 15, 2018

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Mayors OK resolution on Yucca shipments

By hammering on the dangers of transportation, Nevada leaders were able to sway more than 200 U.S. mayors to approve a resolution that asks Congress to prohibit shipments of high-level nuclear waste unless funding, training and equipment are given to cities along the route.

Both supporters and opponents of Yucca Mountain are claiming victory for winning the support of leaders at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Madison, Wis., which on Monday approved the resolution by a majority voice vote.

The resolution acknowledges the risks of transporting high-level nuclear waste, saying that there is "national acknowledgment of risks to our security and the safety of our communities."

It also states that the Energy Department "has no feasible plan for transportation" and the casks used to ship the waste have never undergone full-scale physical testing to determine if they can withstand a "likely transportation accident."

The resolution asks the Senate to prohibit the transportation of nuclear waste unless -- beginning three years before any such movement -- all cities along the proposed transportation route have received adequate funds, training and equipment to protect the public health and safety in the event of an accident.

The resolution was a compromise for pro- and anti-Yucca mayors. The amended version briefly mentions Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but does not specifically oppose the repository.

Instead, the resolution focuses on the dangers of transporting nuclear waste and its impact on American cities, an issue Goodman said should be stressed if Nevada is to convince the Senate to vote against the repository.

"The other mayors said the real issue is not Yucca Mountain -- that's our problem," Goodman said. "Transportation is an issue for everybody. Nothing should take place until the transportation issues are resolved."

Three U.S. mayors had intended to introduce a resolution in favor of Yucca Mountain to a committee on Saturday, the same day Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin and Goodman were scheduled to introduce an anti-Yucca resolution to a committee of mayors.

Goodman said the two sides began negotiating after the pro-Yucca officials called a press conference that was sparsely attended.

"For the first time since I was elected, I used my legal abilities -- negotiation and advocacy," Goodman said.

After nearly 90 minutes, the group came up with a compromise, Goodman said. The three mayors -- Bob Young of Augusta, Ga., Patrick McCoy of Charlotte, N.C., and Patrick Hays of North Little Rock, Ark., -- joined in sponsoring the amended resolution.

Mitch Singer, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the resolution is favorable to the department, because it has already made available funding for shipments of nuclear waste traveling through the country.

"The bottom line is that this is nothing new to the DOE," he said. "The DOE has been providing training and funding for emergency response for years already. I'm sure the DOE is going to continue to do this if and when spent nuclear fuel goes to Yucca Mountain.

"It's nice to see some people agree on things here," he said.

Goodman estimated that Monday's vote was 70 mayors in favor, 30 against the amended resolution. He said the approval of mayors across the country sends a message to their senators and delegation that there are too many unanswered questions regarding the transportation of high-level nuclear waste.

"We can talk about Yucca Mountain here, in the courts, but we have to stop the transportation," Goodman said. "That's where we'll be successful."

Goodman said he will spend the next few weeks helping to lobby senators against approving Yucca Mountain in Washington if he is invited, calling it the most important issue facing the city.