LAS VEGAS - Republican vice presidential contender Dick Cheney reiterated running mate George W. Bush's promise not to store nuclear waste anywhere not deemed safe by science - including Nevada.
''He (Bush) will not approve temporary or permanent storage of nuclear waste until he is satisfied that safety standards are met,'' Cheney said Tuesday when questioned by reporters between campaign speeches.
Democrats immediately criticized Cheney's remarks, calling them politically motivated.
''Nevadans have given them (Bush-Cheney) every opportunity and they've made cynical and politically motivated statements that don't really address the issue,'' said Rory Reid, Nevada State Democratic Party chairman and son of the state's senior Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. ''Bush and Cheney either don't understand the issue, or they are being completely disingenuous''
Vice President Al Gore said in his most recent visit that he would veto any attempt to move nuclear waste anywhere on an interim basis.
Like Bush, Gore said he would rely on scientific studies to determine whether Nevada should be home to the nation's permanent nuclear repository. However, Gore has said he would veto legislation that would lower the Environmental Protection Agency's standards concerning nuclear waste storage.
Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., who is campaigning with Cheney, said despite the efforts of Nevada's Democratic Senate delegation, nuclear waste storage in the Silver State might be inevitable because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission virtually has exhausted its options.
''They've been everywhere else,'' he said.
The NRC should set the scientific standards for nuclear waste storage, not the EPA, Simpson added.
''But the governor will ensure the highest safety standards'' whether they are set by the EPA or the NRC.
Nevada officials fear the NRC will develop less stringent standards than the EPA. Critics say the NRC has tried to undermine the EPA's safety standards in concert with the nuclear power industry.
Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the only site being studied by the federal government to entomb the nation's high-level radioactive waste - 77,000 tons of mostly spent fuel pellets from commercial power reactors.
Cheney didn't raise the nuclear waste issue in his public appearances.
Four weeks to the day from the presidential election, Cheney started his morning telling an enthusiastic group of about 350 mining convention attendees during a breakfast speech at the Las Vegas Convention Center that having adequate energy resources is a basic building block of a strong economy.
The Clinton-Gore administration has failed the mining and energy industry, said the former defense secretary, who added that energy resources can be developed in an environmentally safe way.
''They have no coherent energy policy,'' Cheney told a cheering audience.
Later, Cheney touched on the basic themes of the Republican campaign during a 17-minute speech to about 250 members of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce - the nation's fourth largest - at the nongaming Alexis Park Resort and Spa.
Cheney said a vote for the Democrats meant more taxes and more government. In contrast, he said Bush wants to reduce government and give it back to the people.
If Bush were elected president, the Texas governor would take the budget surplus and use it to support the Social Security system, beef up the military and provide tax relief, Cheney said before heading to a public rally that was attended by about 70 people.
''Nobody should have to pay more than 30 percent (of their income) in taxes,'' Cheney said, referring to Bush's tax cut plan that would also eliminate the marriage and death penalty taxes.
At the rally, Cheney continued to push for Medicare and education reform, saying every child should pass a proficiency test each year.
Meanwhile, the Gore campaign issued a statement that said Cheney had misrepresented Bush's tax plan when he criticized Gore's proposal as including tax credits but failed to mention the Bush tax relief plan itself includes tax credits.
When questioned, Cheney clarified his earlier comments. He said Gore's plan mainly consists of tax credits while the GOP plan calls for rate cuts and the consolidation of the tax brackets as well as tax credits.
About a dozen protesters holding Gore-Lieberman signs and shouting anti-Cheney slogans gathered in front of the Alexis resort.
''He's (Cheney) not a friend of Nevada,'' said Gore-Lieberman campaign spokeswoman Mary Perren, who criticized Cheney for taking money from big oil companies and for his voting record on the environment.
Cheney said his visit does not mean Bush will not make an appearance in the state before Nov. 7.
''This is a critical state,'' Simpson said.
Continuing a western campaign swing, Cheney took off at noon for an appearance at a high school in Albuquerque, N.M. Cheney arrived in Las Vegas on Monday after spending the day campaigning in the Pacific Northwest.
A national CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released Tuesday showed that if the election were held today, Bush would lead Gore 50 percent to 42 percent. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. However, two other national polls show the candidates virtually even.
A recent state poll by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows the presidential race is a statistical dead heat for Nevada's four electoral votes. Previous polls for the newspaper had Bush leading Gore by 8 percentage points in March. The lead had increased to 12 points by June.