Lashing out at President George Bush over the approval of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Saturday that Bush's decision will be brought to bear on his presidency.
He said 51 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House will be needed to defeat the measure in Congress. Many of those votes will be up for grabs in the wake of this decision, which Reid says will affect Bush's ratings and the outcome of elections in November.
"This is not just Nevada's problem. It affects the whole country," Reid said "And it's a lie, as evidenced by the rush to judgment."
The senator predicted that the decision to bury the nation's nuclear waste in Nevada will cost Bush votes.
"He will lose seats in Nevada and all over the country," Reid said. "Every environmental group in the world is opposed to Yucca Mountain. He thinks he can make an announcement like this, leave the country and it will blow over. That won't work."
Within 24 hours of receiving the recommendation from Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Bush rubber-stamped the document, then left for Asia on a diplomatic mission.
Reid used Lake Tahoe as a backdrop Saturday to blast Bush's decision.
"I thought this would be an appropriate place to talk about an issue that's important to me because this is where Bush came when he campaigned in Nevada," Reid said, standing on an observation deck at Heavenly Ski Resort.
According to Reid, Bush knew he was behind in the polls during his 2000 presidential campaign, when he came out against a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. To gain votes, Bush ran TV ads assuring people he would not authorize a nuclear waste facility without "sound science."
In a letter on Friday to congressional leaders, however, Bush said a central disposal site for the waste that is building up at locations across the country "is necessary to protect public safety, health and this nation's security."
Reid scoffed at that declaration, saying the U.S. Department of Energy did not properly consider environmental impacts or the security risk posed by transporting the 77,000 tons of waste stockpiled at U.S. nuclear plants and defense facilities.
Reid said transporting the waste won't necessarily ease the risk, because each nuclear plant will have a measure of nuclear waste and nuclear fuel. If Yucca is used to store waste, shipments will be in transit across the nation.
In light of Bush's ties to the energy industry, Friday's decision may represent a precursor to future nuclear energy development, according to Reid.
Reid also responded to former Gov. Robert List's opinion that instead of fighting the issue, officials should be trying to get the best deal possible for Nevadans.
"If this is how he helps Nevada, tell him we don't need his help," Reid said. "Did Governor List show you his checkbook? I'm not impressed with anything he has to say."
List works for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's lobbying arm.
"The President put us in a hole and we will see what happens, after the governor vetoes the dump," Reid said.
Following Bush's decision Friday, Gov. Kenny Guinn has 60 days to veto establishment of a nuclear dump in Nevada. He said he will meet with the congressional delegation to determine the best strategy concerning when that veto should be made. Congress has 90 days to override that veto.
The Energy Department wants to start shipping 77,000 tons of waste to Yucca Mountain by 2010. The site is 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
The project was initiated in 1982 by the Reagan administration. The Department of Energy has studied the mountain for 15 years and has spent about $8 billion on the project.
Nevada Appeal News Service reporter Susan Wood contributed to this report.