Yucca discussion underscores need for budget solutions | NevadaAppeal.com

Yucca discussion underscores need for budget solutions

Nevada’s financial picture looks bleak.

Unemployment keeps rising and could exceed 10 percent within months. The state budget is almost $2 billion in the red as legislators grapple with the state’s future. Nevada will receive short-term help from the federal stimulus bill, but what will our economic mural portray when the Legislature meets again in 2011?

At last week’s Directions 2009 economic forum in Reno, several presenters said the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project should be open for more review because it could create a financial bonanza for the Silver State.

Businessman Bob Barone, president of the California State Automobile Association, said re-examining Yucca Mountain may be worth a second look because the state could reap millions, even billions, in financial benefit for storing the nation’s nuclear waste. Barone said he felt upward of 75 percent of Nevada’s residents would approve the project once they knew all the facts.

Barone appears to be too optimistic about those numbers, however. The majority of Nevadans have indicated in poll after poll they are against Yucca Mountain.

Proponents say Yucca Mountain is a secure site, and transporting waste on the nation’s ” and Nevada’s ” highways and railroads would be safe because of special containers. Also, further construction, maintenance and general day-to-day work at the site will create and keep jobs.

On the other hand, Yucca Mountain has its opponents, especially Sen. Harry Reid and President Barack Obama. Sen. John Ensign and Gov. Jim Gibbons also oppose storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Opponents argue that erosion, earthquakes and climate would be detrimental to nuclear waste storage. Also, transporting nuclear waste on Nevada’s highways and rail lines could lead to a major accident.

University of Nevada, Reno economist Tom Cargill said, “open, non-passionate discussion” should resume on Yucca Mountain.

The Yucca Mountain project would be a long-term ” a very long-term ” commitment, and one that should not be entered into out of fear generated by what we all hope is a short-term crisis.

But the conversation underscores the need for Nevada to look at all options for obtaining money for its budget so Nevadans don’t face a boom-and-bust revenue cycle every generation.