VIRGINIA CITY - An interim nuclear storage site could be established in Nevada eight months after presidential frontrunner George W. Bush takes office, U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan said Sunday at a town hall meeting.
"Bush's failure to respond (to the nuclear issue) is alarming," Bryan said.
Bryan, who is stepping down after his term ends in January, took this opportunity to issue stern warnings concerning nuclear waste in Nevada should Republican hopeful Bush be elected president.
Bryan said the development of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain is not inevitable, so Congress is looking at alternatives. But that doesn't mean they're looking beyond Nevada's boundaries.
"The nuclear utilities want it (radioactive waste) out of their back yard and into ours," Bryan said, noting the most dangerous threat now is the attempt by Congress to establish a temporary nuclear waste storage at Nevada's Nuclear Test Site. This temporary site would require a change in the law, but once established, Bryan feels it would be permanent.
Bush won't commit to a veto of the legislation, but Democratic hopeful Al Gore will. Bryan said he feels that if Bush is elected this interim storage site could be opened within six to eight months.
"We have enough votes in the Senate (34) to sustain a veto but not to defeat a bill should it pass the House," Bryan said, noting that Republican leaders in Congress are making this a national priority, and without the presidential veto, Bryan fears nuclear storage here will become law.
The Nuclear Test Site is being considered as an interim site in part because nuclear waste can be stored in large underground concrete vaults there for 100 years.
Serious problems remain concerning the transport of this material, which will be crossing 43 states on major highway and railway corridors. Bryan related a recent incident of two tankers that collided in Las Vegas, and what would have resulted if they had been loaded with nuclear waste, and the casks had ruptured.
"There would have been 200 fatalities, and 9000 people would have been affected," Bryan said, noting that 77 metric tons of waste will be transported over 30 years.
He said Clinton vetoed a bill backed by the nuclear utility industry that would relax health and safety standards at the Yucca Mountain site by allowing the quantity of ionizing radiation to be increased from 15 millirems to 30 millirems. Proponents claim loosening these standards is safe, but Bryan has heard that before.
'Don't worry is what they said in 1951," Bryan said, noting that he was a child in Las Vegas when the health issue surrounding above ground nuclear testing wasn't even an issue. The government is still compensating survivors downwind of those atomic blasts for related health problems incurred during that period.