Friday, Oct. 31, 2003 | 11:31 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- A majority of Nevadans are still opposed to the Energy Department's plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a new poll indicates.
A poll conducted for Nevada released Thursday found that 75 percent oppose locating the high-level waste storage site at Yucca Mountain about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Only slightly more than 20 percent support the project, according to the results.
Congress voted to allow the Energy Department to move forward with the federal repository last year after decades of research, and just as much opposition by the state.
Gov. Kenny Guinn vetoed the project but procedures laid out in federal law allowed Congress to override it.
The Energy Department anticipates submitting an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2004, but the state hopes its lawsuits will stop the project in its tracks.
A federal court will hear arguments between the state and federal government on several court cases on Jan. 14.
The survey, which had a 4.5 percent margin of error, indicated that 65 percent of 401 Nevada residents polled support the state's legal action against the site, even if it means turning down potential benefits from the goverment. The survey found that 30 percent of the Nevadans surveyed wanted to make deal.
The report shows that the amount of opposition to the program has "remained consistently high for the past 13 years" and these results are similar to polls taken since 1989.
Close to 64 percent said the Energy Department cannot be trusted while just above 32 percent said the department can be trusted.
"Nevadans obviously have not been fooled by the DOE's charade," Amy Spanbauer, spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Gibons, R-Nev., said this morning. Gibbons was en route to Nevada this morning.
"This survey shows that the people of Nevada understand the real threat and safety risks associated with transporting high-level nuclear waste across the entire country to a hole in the Nevada desert," Spanbauer said.
"The evaluation process of Yucca Mountain has never been fair or unbiased, and the people know it. We will continue to work with the state and our colleagues in the Nevada delegation to stop the Yucca Mountain project on behalf of the people of Nevada. Their concerns are legitimate and must be addressed. Protecting the health and safety of the people of Nevada is priority number one.' A University of Oregon affiliate, Northwest Survey and Data Services in Eugene, Ore., conducted the random phone survey. Thirty-four percent of the Nevadans surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, 44 percent as Republican, eight percent as independent and four percent either identified themselves as with another party or did not want to answer.
Nevadans of all party affiliations "have always opposed becoming the nation's nuclear garbage dump and they won't risk their safety for questionable benefits that will never outweigh the potential economic harm caused by Yucca Mountain,' Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said.
"This survey shows strong concern among Nevadans about an accident or terrorist attack on shipments of nuke waste," she said. " Once people in other parts of the country know that this waste is coming through their community, there is bound to be widespread opposition. That is why we must continue to educate the rest of America about the dangers of sending 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain." Meanwhile, a statewide survey conducted in June for the Nuclear Energy Institute showed that 88 percent of the 500 surveyed said they expected Yucca Mountain would wind up as the nation's nuclear dump site. That survey had a 4.5 percent margin of error, according to Jan van Lohuizen, with Voter Consumer Research, the firm in Washington that did the poll. Van Lohuizen said the poll also asked that if the site was going to come to the state anyway should state officials negotiate for federal benefits. Of the 500 polled, 76 percent said the state should negotiate for b! enefits. Education topped the list for preferred beneficiaries of Yucca money, at 57 percent, with roads and health care help not far behind.