Web site announces nuke dump decision

A pro-nuclear dump Web site reported Wednesday that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was ready to recommend Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the site for a high-level nuclear waste repository.

A TechCentralStation.com column written by Duane D. Freese cited unnamed sources as indicating the dump site may be OK'd as early as today. Fox News cited Freese's story in also reporting that Abraham had made a decision to send nuclear waste to the repository outside Las Vegas.

Freese's article said, "the federal government appears ready, as soon as Thursday, to give the green light to opening the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility in Nevada."

Spokeswomen for senators Harry Reid and John Ensign, who have scheduled a nwqa conference in Reno today, said they heard the report, but had no information to confirm or deny it.

"I wish I could put the senator on the phone right now to say one way or another, but we just don't know," said Tessa Hafen of Sen. Reid's office

Traci Scott of Ensign's office said they have been inundated by phone calls about the report, but also had nothing to confirm.

"We have not received official word about Secretary Abraham's decision," she said.

Under the law authorizing Yucca Mountain, the first person to know of the official decision would be Gov. Kenny Guinn's office.

Once Guinn receives notice of Abraham's decision, 30 days will pass before Abraham officially turns the recommendation over to President George W. Bush.

Citizen Alert Director Kaitlin Backlund, an opponent of the nuke dump, pointed out that even if Abraham has decided to put nuclear waste in Nevada, the process is just beginning.

"This is not a done deal," she said. "It is just the beginning. Once the recommendation goes to the president, then it has to get through Congress. There are numerous hurdles the site recommendation has yet to overcome. That doesn't count the numerous legal battles presented by the state of Nevada."

Backlund said she believes Abraham's decision may have been rushed by fears of terrorism.

"I think it is important to recognize that Secretary Abraham is clearly succumbing to the politics of the day," she said. "Shipping nuclear waste to Nevada will not make nuclear power reactors safe from terrorists. What's dangerous is putting an estimated 100,000 moving shipments of waste on the roadways of this country."

The law that launched the study at Yucca Mountain 20 years ago -- $7 billion worth of study to date -- calls for the energy secretary to give the Nevada governor and Legislature 30 days' notice if he intends to recommend to President Bush that the project go forward.

Guinn and Abraham met for about an hour Monday, before Abraham's first-ever visit to Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

An aide to Guinn said Wednesday that Abraham told the governor this week only that a decision was imminent. Abraham said he didn't give Guinn 30-day notice.

Abraham emerged from a test tunnel at the volcanic ridge declaring himself ready to make a decision after weeks reviewing scientific reports and public comments on the proposal.

Congress has asked for a decision by Feb. 28.


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