Guy W. Farmer: Obama’s budget: No money for Yucca Mountin
July 30, 2014
Editor's note: This column was modified from its original print version.
President Obama did right by Nevada earlier this year when he decided to cut off funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Southern Nevada.
Although I've disagreed with the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on many issues, I'm with them on this one because I don't want Congress and the powerful nuclear energy lobby to force more than 70,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste down our collective throats, or worse. The Yucca Mountain project is still on life support, but not completely dead; maybe it's "undead," like a sinister zombie.
Obama proposed cutting off funds for Yucca Mountain in March, when he presented his 2014-15 budget proposal to Congress. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Obama reiterated his stand against the nuclear waste dump "after determining that Yucca Mountain was NOT a workable solution for disposing of the nation's . . . high-level radioactive waste."
Nevertheless, Obama did request $79 million toward research and development in the areas of transportation, storage, disposal and consent-based (Amen!) siting of a nuclear waste repository. How about downtown Washington, D.C.?
More recently, Nevada's Board of Examiners — Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and two Democrats, Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller — approved nearly $1.4 million to continue our long-running legal fight against the nuclear waste dump. Sandoval said Nevada shouldn't "take its eye off the ball" despite bleak prospects for building the dump in the Silver State. Executive Director Bob Halstead, of the state's Nuclear Projects Agency, added the funding might be needed to fight a federal court ruling the Yucca Mountain licensing process should go forward with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is a typical federal government bureaucratic quagmire where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.
The history of the Yucca Mountain dump began in 1987, when Congress passed the so-called "Screw Nevada Bill" mandating highly radioactive nuclear waste be located in our state. Congressmen and nuclear energy industry lobbyists argued then, as they do today, our state is a wasteland, and no one lives here. That's when Nevada politicians mobilized a bipartisan effort to keep toxic waste out of the Silver State. We no longer generate nuclear waste; therefore, those who generate the waste should figure out how to store it.
Bipartisan opposition to Yucca Mountain continues to this day although Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, and a couple of Southern Nevada Republicans have waffled on the issue.
One worrisome development occurred recently when GOP attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt — a relative newcomer to Nevada who is the grandson of former Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt — dodged Yucca Mountain questions by saying "If Nevadans decide if this is something they want, then so be it," Laxalt said. "But as long as we do not want this, it should not be forced on the state."
No, Adam, the right answer is most Nevadans are opposed to the nuclear waste dump, and that's that.
Meanwhile, Laxalt's Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Ross Miller, reiterated his opposition to the dump.
"As a lifelong Nevadan, I've been fighting Yucca Mountain my entire professional life," Miller said. "I approved more resources to make sure we win this battle for our children and grandchildren's health and safety." Ross echoed his father, former Gov. Bob Miller, on Yucca Mountain.
So we need to keep an eye on the federal budget between now and October, when Congress votes on the 2014/15 budget. The usual suspects will try to convince us Yucca Mountain is good for us and we should just shut up and take our medicine. Most of them are from Washington and they think they know what's good for us. No thanks!
Guy W. Farmer is a longtime opponent of the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.