RENO - After what appeared to be an attempt Tuesday to soften his stance supporting Yucca Mountain, presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain told a Reno audience Wednesday he still supports the nuclear waste repository project.
"I support Yucca Mountain once it goes through all the processes that it has to go through," the Arizona senator said during a town hall meeting at the Reno-Sparks Boys and Girls Club.
McCain, who has been accused lately of softening or dropping long-held but controversial positions, reclaimed a bit of that maverick image Wednesday, not only affirming support for the nuclear dump project but saying he also still supports a temporary workers' permit system to bring in labor from Mexico. That comment drew boos and jeers of "No" from the crowd. He told the nearly 600 in attendance he won't back away from unpopular positions and cited his statements in Iowa opposing corn-based ethanol.
McCain on Tuesday seemed to change his position on the Yucca Mountain project, which is strongly opposed by Nevada voters, calling instead for an international repository that would make Yucca Mountain unnecessary.
Those statements drew fire from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who charged McCain "had hoped to make headlines misleading Nevadans into thinking he was having second thoughts about Yucca" when, in fact, he had not.
McCain told the town hall meeting Wednesday he believes more nuclear power is one answer for the U.S. But he said that involves not just Yucca Mountain but developing reprocessing technology and creating an international system of storage for waste. He also called for much greater emphasis on renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and geothermal energy, which he said Nevada has in abundance.
Referring to oil, he said, "there's never going to be enough."
On immigration, he repeated that securing the borders is first. But he called for a guest worker system allowing Mexican workers to come to the U.S., as well as tougher enforcement of laws prohibiting companies from employing illegal immigrants.
McCain sidestepped a question by a Ron Paul supporter about the Republican state party convention, which was called off to block Paul supporters from revising party rules and taking most, if not all the national delegate slots. The Republican party still hasn't announced plans to reconvene the convention and choose those delegates.
"There is a potential that Nevada may not be represented at the GOP convention in September," the questioner said.
McCain said he "didn't keep up closely" with that battle.
"But I would not let the state of Nevada not be represented at the national convention," he said.
McCain followed the town hall meeting with a private fundraising luncheon, where tickets were reportedly $2,300 apiece.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.