Nevada could reap millions from Yucca Mountain | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada could reap millions from Yucca Mountain

Randi Thompson
Special to the Nevada Appeal

Recently the new head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects said that part of his job is to educate the “highly uninformed mass of people living in Nevada who have heard the myth of a large pot of money in exchange for this hole in the ground.”

Well, as one of the “highly uninformed,” I thought I’d share just how I learned to believe that “myth” about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. I read the federal law.

Title 42 of the U.S. Code provides Nevada with several options to negotiate for funding, but the state has continually refused to negotiate. It states:

“Once selection of a site for a monitored retrievable storage facility is made … the state in which the site is located shall be eligible to enter into a benefits agreement with the Secretary.”

The law goes on to say that in addition to benefits, the host state will receive annual payments of $10 million prior to receiving the spent fuel, and $20 million each year until closure.

That is before we even negotiate. Chances are Congress would be so glad to end this fight they’d likely change the law to increase the amount.

But the opponents keep telling us that there is no pot of money.

Well, the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund is now over $20 billion, and growing. It receives $750 million each year from the users of nuclear power, and another $1 billion a year in interest.

In addition, Congress can allocate more money. Last summer, Sen. Inhofe, R-Okla., offered an amendment to the give Nevada $500 million a year if they would cooperate with the DOE.

And for all of you who believe “Yucca is dead,” well, it’s not. On life support, yes, but not dead. The law mandating that the DOE build a repository is still on the books. Without a change in the law, Congress and the president are obligated to continue with the project or come up with another solution. But they haven’t.

So it’s time to get serious folks. It’s time to kill Yucca. Sticking nuclear waste in the ground forever is stupid. It’s a 40-year-old idea that needs to adapt with technology. Congress and the DOE need to change the whole darn project, and our elected leaders should lead the way.

They should be pushing the nuclear industry and the Energy Department to change the plan for Yucca to make it an interim repository where waste will be held until it can be reprocessed to reduce its toxicity and mass. The reprocessing facility will use the residual fuel as a power source to generate clean (free) energy for Las Vegas. And there should be a research and development complex for renewable and advanced energy technologies that will lead the world in the study of how to build more efficient nuclear power plants and better dispose of the waste.

This is where the nuclear industry is going. But because Nevada has fought them every step of the way, they aren’t looking at us to host such a facility.

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, just introduced a bill urging the state to take such actions. Let’s see if our Legislature has the courage to even hear the bill.

Yucca is the ideal location for such a complex, as the interim storage facility is already built, and we already have some of the best nuclear physicists in the world at the Test Site.

We have a license plate proudly promoting our role in advancing nuclear science via nuclear testing. It’s time to continue that tradition with nuclear power.

– Randi Thompson owns As You Wish, a government and media relations firm.