Nevada residents resigned to Yucca Mountain

Washington, D.C.

A recent Nuclear Energy Institute-sponsored survey on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project shows that voters believe the region is increasingly on the wrong track but that they are resigned to the idea that the project will go ahead as planned. Voter Consumer Research out of Washington, D.C. conducted the summer survey, which was a follow-up to an April 2002 study designed to capture opinion and sentiment before Bush signed House Joint Resolution 87–allowing the Department of Energy to take the next steps toward storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

A view of Yucca Mountain’s North Portal.
Click here to enlarge image

The follow-up survey, fielded June 9 through June 15, shows trends following the decision.

Five hundred registered voters in Nevada participated in the survey, with an additional oversample in Nye and Lincoln counties, for a total of 680 survey participants. Interviews were conducted via telephone and responses were weighted to represent the state. The margin of error for the study is plus or minus 3.8 percent.

Inevitable results

Despite steady opposition/disapproval to building Yucca Mountain, voters are neither punishing their elected leaders for supporting nor are they rewarding elected leaders for opposing Yucca Mountain. The only leader to experience a major decline in favorable ratings from April 2002 is Gov. Guinn, who opposed Yucca Mountain.

Additionally, 32 percent of participants report Bush’s decision will not affect their presidential vote in 2004. And, overall interest in following the Yucca Mountain issue has declined from last year.

Other findings include:

“- Eighty-eight percent of voters believe that the repository will be built.
“- Voters this year are more likely to support the project if it can be proven scientifically safe.
“- Voters are more open to arguments that building the repository can bring millions into Nevada.
“- Other arguments beyond economics are generally losing traction.
“- Concerns remain centered around health and safety risks, including groundwater contamination.
“- Transportation risks have declined as a concern.
“- Despite concerns, Nevada voters are against spending state funds to hire private lawyers to fight building the Yucca Mountain repository.

Jumped the track

Since the President’s approval of the DOE’s recommendation, Nevada voters increasingly believe things in Nevada are headed on the “wrong track.” Forty-nine percent of poll participants felt things were headed in the wrong direction in Nevada, compared with 37 percent from 2002.

The fact that President Bush has authorized construction at Yucca Mountain does nothing to temper opposition/disapproval, nor does it lessen the intensity. Fifty-four percent of Nevada voters were strongly opposed to building a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain last year. In 2003, overall opposition grew by 5 points.

However, voters appear to be more receptive to the argument that building on Yucca Mountain can bring millions of dollars in special annual payments. Likelihood to support the project after hearing of the payments increased to 49 percent from 44 percent in 2002.

Voter Consumer Research can be contacted via its Washington, D.C. office located at 516 C. Street NE, Washington, D.C., 20003.

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