Former Governor List pitches Yucca endorsement | NevadaAppeal.com

Former Governor List pitches Yucca endorsement

Jim Scripps

One day after a House panel rubber-stamped a federal plan to send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, former Nevada Gov. Bob List explained his endorsement of the project to a room of skeptical Northern Nevada business people.

List, a former Carson City district attorney and two-term state attorney general who served as governor from 1978-1982, told attendees at the monthly Northern Nevada Development Authority breakfast the state’s private sector should take advantage of a potential economic windfall the multibillion-dollar project could reap.

“I call it making lemons into lemonade,” he told the gathering at Carson Valley Inn in Minden. “We may not like it. We may want it to go somewhere else. But at a certain point reality has to set in.”

“We badly need to diversify the economy,” List said. “We are tied up with 87 percent federal land. (Yucca Mountain) can spur our economy dramatically.”

In August, List was hired by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear industry, to pitch the benefits of nuclear waste storage in Nevada. Since then he has argued the decision, though largely political, is backed by a significant amount of scientific study — and money Nevada could apply to economic growth.

“I see this as sort of a reverse Comstock Lode,” he said. “They are going to move material into the mountain — someday they are going to reuse it. Nevada should benefit from reprocessing it.”

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List said he expects the U.S. House of Representatives to override Gov. Kenny Guinn’s veto of the plan by a large margin — perhaps 300 of 435 votes — with a much closer margin in the Senate. President Bush and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham voted earlier this year to endorse Yucca as a nuclear storage site.

The House Energy and Commerce energy subcommittee voted 24-2 on Tuesday to override Nevada’s veto. Congress has 90 days to complete the override decision, which is not subject to interference by filibuster. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said he expects a floor vote next week.

List said while the inevitable Yucca approval may be just weeks away, Nevada is engrossed in a scare campaign to persuade Americans the transportation of radioactive materials is inherently unsafe.

He said already “3,000 shipments (of nuclear waste) have traveled over 1 million miles without any problems.”

Plans to send 77,000 tons of waste to Yucca would require 135 train- and 45 truck-loads a year, List said. The waste will come from 131 sites in 41 states.

“These numbers have been misrepresented,” he said. “It’s a relatively small amount in terms of size.

“If you put it on the field of Douglas High School, you’d want to stand back, but it would only be two feet deep.”

While he did reiterate Nevadans’ concerns about the potential for terrorist attacks on nuclear shipments, List said security will be tight, with shipments guarded at all times.

“Of course the terrorist threat is the biggest concern in terms of transportation,” he said. “I think the answers are there.”