Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2019

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2008 Elections

Barack Obama on Yucca Mountain


Obama, whose home state of Illinois has 11 nuclear power facilities, said it might seem to be in the best interests of his state to ship out the nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. However, the risks of transporting nuclear waste to another state poses an uncertain risk. Because a large amount of the spent fuel would likely travel by rail, it's a serious concern for Chicago, which serves as the transportation hub of the country. Also, because Nevada elected officials have not wavered in their opposition, it could mean billions of more dollars are spent on the project without any results, Obama said. For those reasons, Obama is opposed to making Yucca a permanent nuclear waste repository. He said a solution could be to find another state willing to serve as a repository, or finding regional repositories. "In short, the selection of Yucca Mountain has failed, the time for debate on this site is over, and it is time to start exploring new alternatives for safe, long-term solutions based on sound science."


Although he is opposed to Yucca, Obama has accepted political contributions from many individuals who work in the nuclear industry. He has received nearly $195,000 in contributions from Exelon Corp.'s political action committee, its employees and their families, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Exelon's nuclear division brags it has the biggest fleet of nuclear plants in the country and provides about 20 percent of the nuclear generating capacity in the U.S.


Obama's written statement: Read Obama's Oct. 30, 2007, letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, calling on them to abandon the Yucca project.


Las Vegas Sun video: Obama and Bill Richardson respond to questions about creating a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain (about 90 miles north of Las Vegas) during the Nov. 15, 2007, Democratic presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas.


Las Vegas Sun: Yucca gets its 15 minutes of fame (Nov. 1, 2007).


(Note: The Sun asked top tier Democratic candidates about Yucca in October. The following is the question and Obama's response.)


All Democratic candidates oppose Yucca Mountain, but what’s your solution to solving the waste issue — and what’s your stance on nuclear power? Yucca is a bad idea. Part of what I want to do is not just look at storage options, but also look at what can we bring about through technologies. I would take $150 billion over 10 years, obtained from charging polluters, and devote most of that money to clean - energy initiatives and significant research and development into more effective, safer ways of storing nuclear waste. If we can solve the problem, nuclear should be part of our energy mix. If we can’t solve it, that will cap the degree to which we can use nuclear energy.


— Las Vegas Sun new media managing editor Dave Toplikar compiled this report.

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