Las Vegas Sun

February 28, 2024


Monstrous nuclear waste dump just won’t die

Yucca Mountain and the politically undead.

A horror film starring Congressman Mark Amodei, Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis and other smaller actors.

If you follow some of the better zombie movies and vampire offerings on the silver screen, there is one thing they have in common. The dead won’t stay dead and the people who like to drain the lifeblood from innocent people just won’t ever go away. Ever.

The story of Yucca Mountain and the nuclear power industry’s decades-long effort to bury the world’s deadliest garbage just a few miles from the Entertainment and Tourism Capital of the World is a long and sordid story about political intrigue, political weakness and, finally, political courage. Throw in the obligatory pitchfork and torch-wielding citizenry railing against the oppressors and you, well, know the picture. It is a familiar one to Hollywood writers but, I must admit, it is a frustrating saga to those of us whose lives and livelihoods hang in the balance of the movie’s ending.

The election of President Barack Obama brought with it his commitment to end the Yucca Mountain debacle and the 30-year cloud that hung over the futures of all Nevadans. He made good on his promise to close the radioactive dump because it was premised on bad science and bad politics. The other reason, of course, is Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid, who has doggedly fought throughout his career to make sure that Yucca never opened its doors. It also was important that every responsible officeholder in the state was adamantly opposed to the very thought of shipping some other state’s nuclear nightmare into our backyard.

Together, thankfully, the president and Sen. Reid finished the job by zeroing out the Yucca project’s money in the federal budget. Without money, as we have all learned, the government and its pet projects just don’t and can’t work.

But killing a beast like Yucca Mountain is just like running a stake through the heart of a vampire or blasting an already dead zombie who just doesn’t know his time is up. There is always a sequel, always another shot at life after death, always the chance that dead things will come back to haunt us.

That is the story of Yucca Mountain. If you haven’t enjoyed the past three years and the economic devastation that has been visited on Southern Nevada, just wait until people like Amodei and Hollis get their way. We all know what the reports from experts say. If and when Yucca Mountain opens and if and when there is an accident involving a truck or train carrying high-level nuclear waste anywhere near the Strip where millions of tourists provide us a decent standard of living, there will be a precipitous drop of 30 percent in property values, incomes and jobs.

Let’s see. We have just seen tens of thousands of jobs disappear and home values fall through the floor. Can you imagine what another 30 percent decline will do?

Get the picture? In the face of all that, Amodei, Hollis and others want to keep our options open by continuing to fund Yucca Mountain. They haven’t come right out and said it but everyone knows that if Nevada invites that nuclear waste into our backyard, there is no one anyplace else in this country who will help us cart it out when the time comes. We will get to figure out how living things and deadly things can co-exist in Southern Nevada.

Don’t those guys get it? There are plenty of people outside of Nevada who want to shove that garbage down our Yucca Mountain. Why on earth would Amodei and Hollis want to help the enemies of this state?

There are only two reasons I can think of. They are either seriously ill-informed, which I don’t believe for a second, or they have seriously bought into the Republican mantra that says nuclear power — and the money it brings in to the party — is good for children and other living things. And that the vast wasteland that is Nevada will never notice a hundred thousand tons of radioactive garbage polluting our future.

In either case, when politicians try to placate certain moneyed interests in their party, all they really do is create yet another reason for people to vote against them. No one wants to take the risk that we may be right in saying that high-level radioactive waste is bad for all living things. Of course we are right.

The only question that Nevadans should ask is what is wrong with folks like Amodei and Hollis? What could they possibly be thinking?

Or, is it possible that they just aren’t thinking at all?

Brian Greenspun is president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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