Bryan wants UNLV to stop survey about nuclear waste

LAS VEGAS - Sen. Richard Bryan wants UNLV to stop conducting a survey on nuclear waste storage that he says is based on false assumptions and unrealistic scenarios.

''Why in the world they would ask questions about issues that have never been in the same orbit of debate is completely beyond me,'' Bryan, D-Nev., said in a statement Thursday.

UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research has been conducting a telephone survey on the nuclear waste storage since June. It is expected to be completed in late November.

One of the questions asks residents to rate the risk factor of a nuclear waste dump using terms such as weed killer, fire or motor vehicle accident.

In a letter to UNLV President Carol Harter Wednesday, Bryan said comparing the threat of nuclear waste to weed killer or a traffic accident ''grossly underestimates the potential threat of nuclear waste transportation and disposal.''

Bryan asked Harter to review the survey and expressed his hope that the university will end the survey.

Harter wasn't available for comment Thursday because she was attending the Board of Regents meeting.

But, university Provost Ray Alden said the survey is a research tool to determine how people perceive risk.

''I think the purpose of the survey has been somewhat misunderstood,'' he said.

Alden said the university is unbiased and is certainly not trying to take a position on the nuclear waste issue.

He said the survey is a matter of academic freedom. It wants the opinions of about 400 or 500 people.

The survey also asks residents if they would stay in Nevada if they were compensated - in the form of a federal tax rebate - for being willing to accept the transportation and disposal of nuclear waste. The survey says the federal government would pay moving costs of residents who decide to leave the state because of the nuclear waste.

''The proposal of such a rebate or federally funded relocation program makes the whole premise of the questions misleading to the public and inaccurate in the posting or publishing of any survey results,'' Bryan said.

David Lemmon, spokesman for Bryan, said UNLV should be able to conduct surveys but not base them on false assumptions that ''don't have a chance of ever coming true.''

''It could really skew the potential viewpoints of people,'' he said.


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