Las Vegas Sun

April 28, 2017

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Former governor: Yucca Mountain an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

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Steve Marcus/Sun, file photo

Left: Former Nevada Gov. Bob List speaks in favor of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository on Dec. 12, 2001, while a consultant to the Nuclear Energy Institute. Right: Yucca Mountain is shown about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

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CARSON CITY – Former Gov. Robert List thinks the state should take a new look at construction of a $100 billion project to bury high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

List, now a private attorney in Las Vegas, said it could be a “Fort Knox” for the state. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to take a fresh look,” he told the Legislative Committee on High-Level Radioactive Waste on Tuesday.

But Bruce Breslow, head of the state’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, said “The bookmakers have us favored” in canceling Yucca Mountain.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced it is withdrawing its application to go forward with Yucca Mountain as a site for burial of nuclear waste.

List, who said he was an attorney for Esmeralda County, said anything can happen and “the project is not dead at this point.”

When Nevada opposed the Yucca Mountain project, Nevada had the only gaming in the nation and there was plenty of water for expansion. But now other states have casinos and the water supply is limited.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to take a fresh look,” at the proposed nuclear waste disposal site on the Nevada Test Site, List said. He urged the state to let scientists study the project and "if it could go forward, it could be very positive for our state."

At $100 billion, the former governor said it would be the biggest public works project in the world. And nuclear waste could be retrievable in the future, he said.

But Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, told List, “I’m fearful it would become the garbage dump of America.” List rejected that idea and said it could be a “tremendous resource.”

List formerly represented the nuclear power industry but no longer has it as a client.

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, said he agreed 100 percent with List. He worked at the Nevada Test Site from 1957 to 1999 and said “I do support Yucca Mountain.”

But Breslow countered List, saying allowing Yucca Mountain to go forward “would not be a money maker.” He said in times of economic downturn, the state looks for easy money.

In this case, the state would receive $10 million or $20 million for mitigating circumstances and that “would not cover a tenth of the cost of the Highway Patrol” needed.

Breslow suggested to the committee it would be tough to retrieve and reprocess the waste, adding that it would produce large amounts of radiation.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, suggested the state try to gain ownership of the land at Yucca Mountain to stop the project, but Breslow said that would be “fruitless.”

The U.S. Department of Energy in March announced it was withdrawing its plan for Yucca Mountain, but that is still in the courts.

The committee didn't make any decisions. It will hold another meeting before making recommendations.

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