Anti-Yucca plank may hold election key | NevadaAppeal.com

Anti-Yucca plank may hold election key

JEFF DONN

BOSTON – Nevada carries just five electoral votes, but some state Democrats believe it could decide the presidency on the strength of one issue: whether to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Nevada’s Democrats have seized on the leverage of their closely contested state in a tight election season to showcase their resistance to the project within the proposed party platform. The presumed Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, of Massachusetts, is opposed to the Yucca project.

The platform is set to be adopted, with the anti-Yucca plank, at the party’s national convention Tuesday evening in Boston, party leaders say.

“We have a battleground state, and we believe that Yucca Mountain will make the difference,” said Dina Titus, a Nevada convention delegate and minority leader of the state Senate.

President Bush has backed Yucca as the nation’s first permanent storage site for nuclear waste. With Americans almost equally split between Bush and Kerry, some Nevada delegates contend that Kerry’s opposition can push him over the top in Nevada and, if the electoral race is very tight elsewhere, in the nation.

“This is a fabulous plank,” said U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, of Las Vegas, the delegation leader. “I think it clearly demonstrates the difference in the positions between the two parties.”

Republicans reacted by accusing Democrats of politicizing the project, which has attracted considerable bipartisan backing in the past. Democratic supporters have even included Kerry’s vice presidential running mate John Edwards, the North Carolina senator. Edwards has since assured Nevada party leaders he will rally to Kerry’s stand against the project.

“It has never been a partisan issue until this year, when Sen. Kerry is attempting to leverage it,” said Robert List, a former Republican governor of Nevada and now a political consultant to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group.

“Ultimately, Nevadans will vote on a broader theme,” added Yier Shi, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.