Carson City responds to nuclear waste dump

As a high school government teacher, John Sullivan tries to present both sides of a debate to his students -- even when it comes to nuclear waste.

"I try to teach them, on one hand, to trust the government but also to be skeptical," he said. "In your heart, you want to believe (the nuclear waste site) will be safe, but I think there's quite a concern, mostly by Nevadans, that there may be some inherent danger to us in the long run."

Others, however, don't remain so balanced.

On learning Thursday that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recommended storage of 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, some reacted strongly.

"That's gross," said Britney Fisher, a 16-year-old junior at Carson High School. "Why would we want that in Nevada? It's nuclear waste. What if we have three-headed babies or something like that in the future?"

It's a sentiment Sullivan said is not uncommon.

"I think the general attitude here is the same as most Nevadans -- we're opposed to it," he said. "It seems to be a state's-rights issue and the federal government has the power."

However, he was not surprised by the announcement.

"It seemed real inevitable once the federal government and 49 other states decided they didn't want it," he said.

Elizabeth King, a career coach in Carson City, is afraid of the questions not yet answered.

"There's too much out there that we still don't understand," she said. "It seems like they're moving to make a decision now without having all of the research."

Getting it to Yucca Mountain is what scares retired Minden resident Kelly Arnold.

"Does anybody want nuclear waste going through the middle of their downtown?" Arnold asked. "There's the possibility that it could break or spill -- that's it for the town."

The silver lining is in the economics.

"It will bring new jobs and raise the tax base in towns like Tonopah," Sullivan said. "I guess that's the only bright side."

But 16-year-old Brady Miller predicts a negative effect on tourism.

"I think it will give our state a bad rep(utation)," Miller said. "'Nevada -- the nuclear dumping state' just doesn't sound cool."

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