Las Vegas Sun

December 6, 2021

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Yucca opponents fighting for an old friend, too

Michael Mariotte

Courtesy of Michael Mariotte

Michael Mariotte

As anti-nuclear activists gear up for a potential fight in Congress again, they could be facing battle without of their longtime leaders.

Michael Mariotte is the former executive director and current president of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an influential Washington-based grassroots group dedicated to stopping the proliferation of nuclear power.

Mariotte is battling pancreatic cancer, and Nevada activists are rallying to his cause by supporting a legacy fund to help him continue his work with NIRS.

Judy Treichel, of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, said Mariotte has mentored her since she sought national help to fight Congress' 1987 designation to store the nation's nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain.

"We didn't bring it on, and we probably weren't going to be able to get rid of it by ourselves," she said.

In 1994, Mariotte worked with Nevada anti-nuclear activists like Treichel to create a national campaign that highlighted the local highways and railroads that nuclear waste would have to take throughout the country to get to Yucca Mountain.

"We had always felt so far away from Washington," Treichel said. "It was obvious this was a really successful campaign."

NIRS supporters count among Mariotte's victories President Bill Clinton’s veto of a 2000 bill to start shipping highly radioactive nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. The U.S. Senate survived a veto override by just one vote, led by then-assistant minority whip Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Treichel says Mariotte's illness is "a crushing blow" to anti-nuclear activists, but that he's helped create a national community of activists dedicated to fighting unwanted nuclear waste storage.

"If they try to force this on somebody else," she said, "we would certainly be a help. This is something a community or a state can't really fight by themselves."

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