Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2019

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EDITORIAL:

Energy secretary endangers us by shrugging off grave warnings

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Andrew Harnik / AP

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

Once again, Rick Perry is treating Nevadans like the stuff he used to scrape off of the bottom of his boots in Texas.

This time, it was revealed that the Energy Department secretary was continuing to press ahead on Yucca Mountain despite a highly alarming warning from a federal government safety watchdog.

That group, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, notified Perry on March 21 that earthquake threats next door to Yucca Mountain at the Nevada National Security Site could trigger a “high explosive violent reaction” at the site’s Device Assembly Facility. That reaction, the board said, could lead to “unmitigated dose consequences to the offsite public.”

In non-bureaucrat speak, that translates to an explosion that could irradiate Nevadans living near the site.

With such an enormous red flag being waved, then, it’s unconscionable that Perry still wants to dump 110,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste in an adjacent facility. And keep in mind that the safety board’s letter is just the latest in decades’ worth of evidence that Yucca Mountain is a catastrophe waiting to happen should it be developed.

Perry’s push to reboot the project must be stopped.

To her credit, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., made sure that Perry and the public were aware of the board’s concern when she grilled the Energy secretary about it during a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“You’ve incorporated that into analysis?” she asked.

“I feel quite certain that we would,” Perry said.

“That you would or have not yet?” she asked.

“That we would,” he clarified, essentially admitting to having ignored the warning.

Cortez Masto went on to question Perry about storing waste near areas where the U.S. Air Force conducts Red Flag exercises that often involve live ordnance.

“Do you think it is safe to store waste nearby even with the threat that errant ordnance or any other mishap near Yucca Mountain could have an extreme negative impact on the neighboring public?” she asked.

“I think it’s safe, Senator …” Perry said.

“So can I see your analysis instead of your opinion?” she asked.

Amid rumbling of support for Yucca Mountain among some members of Congress, it’s good to know that Cortez Masto and the Southern Nevada congressional delegation are in lock-step against Perry and the project. Gov. Steve Sisolak and state leaders are right behind them.

Perry is proving to be a key threat to our state, not only with his stance on Yucca Mountain but in approving the secret shipment of weapons grade plutonium to the state last year.

Actually, check that — the former Texas governor is proving to be a threat to a lot of states, since the plutonium was transported here across who knows how many state lines from the East Coast. If Yucca Mountain were completed, waste transportation routes would cut through 44 states.

This is material so deadly that even in the highly shielded containers in which its shipped, radiation can be detected within a half-mile away from it. An accident or terrorist attack along the thousands of miles of routes could be catastrophic, and nowhere is that more true than in Las Vegas. One of the main routes runs right along Interstate 15, paralleling the Strip.

Then, of course, there’s the earthquake threat, which could result in radiation entering the atmosphere or in waste contaminating groundwater. It’s preposterous to think that any facility could be designed on this site to safely store waste for the thousands of years it would remain dangerous.

Throw in the potential dangers lurking at the National Security Site, and it’s even more clear thatthe Yucca Mountain project should be wiped off the books.

Mr. Perry, stop putting Nevadans at risk, pull the plug on this monstrosity and work on better solutions.