Senate K-Os Nevada’s opposition to Yucca

Kathleen Davis, Associate Editor

In July, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn took one on the chin in his battle to prevent the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository from popping up on the Clark County horizon. However, Guinn has vowed to continue the fight against burying nuclear waste inside the desert mountain.

“While disappointed the Senate did not uphold my veto of the Yucca Mountain project, it is clear we have made considerable headway in convincing others that Yucca Mountain is a bad idea,” Governor Guinn stated. “The U.S. Senate vote is the beginning of Nevada’s legal and regulatory fight to stop the Yucca Mountain project.”

“We are highly confident that Nevada will prevail,” he added.

No shocker

The House passed their override of Guinn’s veto in May, but, according to AP sources, the Senate vote had been held up by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who refused to bring the matter before the forum. Republican senators forced his hand using an old 1982 waste law and finally got the vote rolling in early July.

In the end, the results were not surprising. The Senate, too, chose to override Guinn in a 60 to 39 vote, essentially paving the way to final approval for the repository, although there are still a handful of lawsuits that the state has filed against the DOE. Such legal machinations could make Yucca’s projected opening date of 2010 a bit too optimistic, which would make some Nevada residents and representatives quite happy.

“From the beginning of this process, our state has been the victim of Washington power politics,” stated Senator John Ensign, a Republican from Nevada who was among the few GOP senators to vote against the project.

“Yucca Mountain doesn’t solve the nation’s nuclear waste problem,” he added. “When Yucca Mountain is filled to capacity in 2036, there will be more waste sitting at nuclear reactor sites than there is today. So we’ll spend $60 billion and still have to go through a new site selection process in a dozen years.”

Clark County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera agreed with Ensign and reiterated Guinn’s statement that the state has not yet begun to fight.

“We will not bargain. We will not negotiate. We will not waver in our determined opposition to Yucca Mountain, and no amount of government dollars can buy away that commitment. We lost a battle [with the Senate vote], but we will win the war,” Herrera commented.

And no one is above finger pointing on this issue either. Clark County Commissioner Myrna Williams added to Herrera’s statement by saying that she was “especially disturbed by the actions of Utah’s senators, who kowtowed to big money special interests and sold out the American people.”

Some happy voices

No matter how angry Nevada’s representatives seem to be on the subject, there are others who applauded the Senate vote.

The Alliance for Sound Nuclear Policy, a national coalition of organizations representing more than 26 million consumers, seniors, environmentalists, business leaders, industry and union members, stated that the Senate “made the right decision for consumers and the environment.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute called the day of the Senate vote “a great day for U.S. energy security and common-sense environmentalism.”

“This is a major and positive step forward for the commercial nuclear power industry,” stated Steve Tritch, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co.

And, Anthony F. Earley, Jr., DTE Energy chairman and CEO, weighed in with his opinion, commending the Senate’s “thoughtful and prudent vote.”

Nevada representatives like Ensign, however, have called the vote a perfect example of NIMBY in action, the “not in my backyard” brigade working at full force. And they may not be far off in some cases.

Norm Coleman, who is running for Senate in Minnesota, urged current Senator Paul Wellstone to vote for the approval of Yucca Mountain. His logic was evident.

“There is simply no good reason to keep nuclear waste in our backyard,” he stated.

In the end, though, Wellstone did not take Coleman’s advice. He was one of the 39 who voted against the approval.

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