OK, before Bob Loux - Nevada's high-priced, taxpayer-funded anti-Yucca Mountain lobbyist - again tries to misrepresent my position, the purpose of this column is to encourage open discussion of the Yucca Mountain project, not advocate in favor of it. Discussion is good, because as we all know, there are two sides to every story.
To get started, let's list some of Nevada's more pressing problems: A budget shortfall, lack of water, high energy costs and education. Next, let's establish that nuclear waste pellets are currently being stored safely at nuclear power plants all across the country, and have been safely shipped from military bases to waste repositories for years. These are facts.
Now consider a story in this week's Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal. According to the paper, there is a worldwide shortage of uranium. Uranium was selling for just $7 a pound in 2000, but it's now going for around $73 a pound - after hitting a high of $140 a pound last summer. And consider that the technology now exists to extract uranium from what is currently considered worthless nuclear waste.
So how much is the nation's "worthless" nuclear "waste" now worth? The Courier-Journal reports "the uranium that could be recovered from the waste could be worth $7.6 billion." That's $7.6 BILLION, with a capital "B." And to put that in a bit of perspective, Nevada's current budget shortfall is less than $1 billion.
Now suppose Nevada, in exchange for agreeing to store the nation's nuclear "waste" at Yucca Mountain was to receive "title" to that nuclear waste currently valued at $7.6 billion. And suppose Nevada, in exchange for agreeing to store the nation's nuclear "waste" at Yucca Mountain, was selected as the site for the nation's nuclear reprocessing center, complete with all the high-paying, tax-generating jobs that would come with it.
Then suppose, as part of the deal, a nuclear power plant was built at Yucca Mountain, with the understanding that Nevada's citizens would get dirt cheap electricity from the plant.
Then suppose, in exchange for agreeing to store the nation's nuclear "waste" at Yucca Mountain, the feds would build a water pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to Yucca Mountain. And then suppose we used the power at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Power Plant to desalinate the ocean water being piped in and use it to solve the state's water crisis rather than sucking all the water out of the ground in rural Nevada and piping it to Las Vegas.
Desalinization pipe dream? Hardly. As UNR Prof. Nicholas Tsoulfanidis pointed out in an op/ed appearing in the Reno Gazette-Journal this week, the desalinization process is not complicated. "Known as reverse osmosis, it separates freshwater from seawater," writes Tsoulfanidis. "A nuclear reactor generates the heat to do it." The professor adds that other countries are already using desalinization technologies and that such a facility in Nevada "could supply copious amounts of water for our state's economy and growing population."
And considering all the jobs and people who would be working at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Reprocessing Center, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Power Plant and the Yucca Mountain Desalinization Facility, we'd be crazy not to insist on the feds establishing a world-class Yucca Mountain Nuclear Technology University here, as well.
So when you consider these absolutely enormous potential benefits for the state of Nevada, isn't it time we stopped listening without question to paid anti-Yucca lobbyists such as Bob Loux and started listening to the other side of this story?
And just for the record in the interest of full disclosure, neither I nor any business or organization I'm affiliated with has taken a dime from the nuclear industry or the Department of Energy. Unlike Mr. Loux, I'm not being paid for my position on Yucca Mountain. Wish it were otherwise. My kids could use some new shoes.
• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org