Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2019

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Letter to Congress:

Nuclear waste repository would hurt businesses in Nevada

Editor’s note: With the U.S. House expected to vote today on a resolution to restart the licensing process for the national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to House leadership expressing strong opposition to the measure.

Today, the Sun presents the letter, edited for style and clarity, and expresses our support of the chamber’s position.

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 upon 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 risks that are too great for 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.

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 a large amount of water, which is a concern to businesses, local governments, residents and regional water agencies, given that 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 mindful of 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 they deserve the opportunity to learn the facts about how this plan would affect their lives and livelihood.

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 is president and CEO; Michael Bolognini is chairman of the board of trustees; and Hugh Anderson is chairman of government affairs for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.