Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2018

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OPINION:

Las Vegas business leaders to House: We stand firm against Yucca Mountain

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John Locher/Associated Press file

Participants in a 2015 congressional tour of Yucca Mountain enter the project’s south portal. The site is near the Nevada town of Mercury, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

As the U.S. House prepares to hold a vote Thursday on a resolution that would restart the licensing process for the proposed national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Las Vegas business leaders are expressing staunch opposition to the measure.

On Monday, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce issued a letter to House leadership citing numerous concerns over the project and saying Yucca Mountain is "not a feasible or practical site for the storage of nuclear waste." Tuesday, a group of local businesses and business organizations issued a letter to House members saying they would "work tirelessly to ensure that radioactive waste is never stored anywhere near the world’s entertainment capital in Las Vegas." That group that included the chamber, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, several leading Las Vegas resort companies, the American Gaming Association and the Nevada Resort Association.

Here are the letters, edited for style and clarity:

The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce is Nevada’s largest and most diverse business organization, representing thousands of employers who employ more than 200,000 Southern Nevadans. As the voice of business in our state, its mission is to help Nevada businesses succeed and create jobs. This includes protecting our members from initiatives or legislation at all levels of government that could hinder our state’s economy, impede job creation and hamper development of our local workforce.

As such, the Metro chamber has been actively engaged with members of Congress, federal government agencies, Nevada’s constitutional officers, state legislators, local government leaders and entities, trade groups, employers, and residents of the state of Nevada regarding its strong steadfast opposition for more than two decades to the proposed nuclear waste repository site at Yucca Mountain.

The Metro chamber’s position regarding the Yucca Mountain project has not changed with the introduction of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce continues to strongly oppose a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, as well as the transportation and storage of any nuclear waste in Nevada, because of the potential negative effect it could have on the safety and health of the visitors and residents of Southern Nevada, as well as the chilling long-term effect it could have on the economy.

The proposed legislation would allow for the storage of approximately 110,000 metric tons of nuclear waste less than 90 miles from Las Vegas, and is a significant concern to the business community and residents as it could pose a national security and health threat. The close proximity of such a facility to Las Vegas could also damage the tourism-based economy of Southern Nevada. In 2017, Southern Nevada hosted approximately 42.2 million visitors, whose direct and indirect economic impact is $58.8 billion. This translates to about 391,000 jobs and $16.4 billion in wages for our region. Southern Nevada is the economic engine of the state, and it is incumbent on all stakeholders of our region’s economy and future prospects for growth to protect the well-being of all of our residents and visitors.

The potential terrorist threats, environmental impacts, and transportation challenges, as well as the safety of storing nuclear waste material, are too great of a risk on our region’s economy. Residents and visitors must feel safe in their communities and the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain could fundamentally undermine that safety. Unfortunately, the passage of H.R. 3053 may only elevate Las Vegas’ profile for a potential terrorist attack. We cannot risk such a scenario, since any incident with the transport or storage of nuclear waste could have a severe and negative economic impact on Southern Nevada’s economy.

The Metro chamber is also adamantly opposed to the temporary storage of any nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, which includes reprocessed fuel. The reprocessing of nuclear waste requires large amount of water, which is a concern to businesses, local governments, residents and regional water agencies since the region remains in a severe drought.

In addition, Nevada is ranked by the U.S. Geological Survey as the fourth most active seismic area in the United States. The potential for seismic activity in the region raises serious questions about the logic and prudence of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Seismic activity in the region is another reason why Yucca Mountain is not a feasible or practical site for the storage of nuclear waste.

The storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain should not only be a concern for Southern Nevadans but also for the residents of 329 congressional districts in 44 states that nuclear waste shipments must pass through to get to Yucca Mountain. The transport and safety of these shipments need to be part of a national conversation and the potential impacts of any incident during transportation of these casks by rail and truck should not be underestimated. While the people of Southern Nevada have been vigilant about the potential dangers of the transportation of this toxic material, fellow citizens across the country who live in states through which this waste would be transported may not be aware and deserve the opportunity to learn the facts about how this plan would impact their lives and livelihoods.

Thank you for allowing the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce to offer its concerns and strong opposition as associated with Yucca Mountain, as proposed by H.R. 3053. If we can be of any assistance or provide you with additional information, please feel free to contact us at 702-641-5822.

Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO

Michael Bolognini, chairman of the board of trustees

Hugh Anderson, chairman of government affairs

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The undersigned organizations and businesses write to express our vehement opposition to H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, which is scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives this week.

By reviving licensing activities for Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, this legislation has the potential to adversely impact citizens and businesses located in Nevada.

Yucca Mountain is located just 90 miles from the world’s premier tourist, convention and entertainment destination in Las Vegas, which welcomed nearly 43 million visitors last year. Las Vegas is once again on pace to meet or break that number with over 10 million visitors already accounted for in 2018. The greater Las Vegas area is one of the fastest growing in the U.S., with a population that now exceeds 2.1 million people, according to an estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. Safety and security remain a top priority for all Americans, and any problems with the transport of more than 110,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to the site throughout the country, or issues with its storage there, would bring potentially devastating consequences to the local, state and national communities. Moreover, with taxes on Nevada’s tourism industry providing 42 percent of the state general fund, even a modest decline in visitors’ perception about the region could have severe negative implications for the state’s economy and future growth.

We stand with the many concerned citizens, small-business operators and bipartisan members of the Nevada delegation in staunch opposition to any attempt to restart the repository licensing process and will work tirelessly to ensure that radioactive waste is never stored anywhere near the world’s entertainment capital in Las Vegas.

We strongly urge members to vote against this flawed legislation and, instead, explore alternative solutions that respect state sovereignty and do not put Nevada’s citizens and economy at risk.

Sincerely,

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO, American Gaming Association

Virginia Valentine, president, Nevada Resort Association

Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO, Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce

Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

James Murren, chairman and CEO, MGM Resorts International

Joe Asher, CEO, William Hill U.S.

Keith Smith, president and CEO, Boyd Gaming Corporation

Mark P. Frissora, president and CEO, Caesars Entertainment

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO, Las Vegas Sands Corporation

Timothy J. Wilmott, CEO, Penn National Gaming