Ensign hits nuclear power industry in speech to convention

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PHILADELPHIA - Deriding the nuclear power industry for ''living in the past,'' Senate candidate John Ensign told the Republican National Convention on Monday that he would fight to keep radioactive waste out of Nevada.

In a three-minute speech to delegates at midday, the Republican campaigning to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Richard Bryan spoke in favor of tax cuts and pitched his plan to make prescription drugs cheaper.

Then the former congressman turned to the hottest political issue in Nevada, saying he wanted to address ''especially the nuclear power lobby.''

''Nevada is not a wasteland. Nevada does not have a single nuclear power plant,'' he said to cheers from the dozen or so Nevada delegates on the convention floor.

Introduced among the candidates in the ''most competitive Senate races,'' Ensign told the party faithful that ''shipping nuclear waste to Nevada is bad for my home state and bad for our great nation.

''It's time we stopped living in the past and look to the future for ways to utilize this rare and expensive resource of nuclear power instead of burying it in the ground never to be recovered,'' he said.

Ensign said if elected, he will fight ''to keep deadly nuclear waste out of my home state.''

Ensign came within 428 votes of unseating Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 1998 in a campaign that saw Reid warn voters that a vote for Ensign was a vote for bringing nuclear waste to Nevada.

Ensign argued that he was strongly opposed to the plan to build a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, north of Las Vegas. But Reid insisted it was only opposition from Senate Democrats and veto threats from President Clinton that kept the GOP-backed waste plan from becoming law.

The issue has proven to be just as controversial this year as Ensign takes on Democrat Ed Bernstein.

''We are going to beat that drum from today until Election Day,'' said Rory Reid, chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party and the son of Sen. Reid.

Ensign said he will work with George W. Bush if the Republican is elected president ''to find alternative solutions to the serious nuclear waste problems we have.''

Bush's position on Yucca Mountain also has been subject to attacks from Democrats. They say Bush is an ally of the nuclear power industry and suspect he would support the bill pushed by Republican Sens. Frank Murkowski of Alaska and Larry Craig of Idaho.

The Texas governor, at the urging of Ensign and other Nevada Republicans, issued a statement earlier this year emphasizing he would support no waste dump in Nevada that was not supported by science.

But Sen. Reid says Bush has stopped short of pledging to veto the same bill that Clinton threatened this year, a promise Gore has made.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jon Porter, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in the district covering Las Vegas, was among a dozen House candidates who were given 90 seconds to speak on the podium Monday.

''My plan is to keep nuclear waste out of the state of Nevada, provide affordable prescription drugs for our seniors, lower taxes, strengthen our public education'' and toughen laws aimed at preventing drunk driving, Porter said.

''While Al Gore thinks Washington knows best, George W. Bush and Jon Porter believes communities know better,'' he said.


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