The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yucca Mountain shouldn't be partisan

This first published January 1, 2009 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

This is the start of a brand new year, and things are looking tough for the rest of it. The economy is taking its toll on America’s families, including those here in Nevada.

The Nevada Legislature is gearing up for the 2009 session, which is expected to be the hardest, if not cruelest, in decades, especially on those without a voice.

One thing that isn’t brand new is the idea of storing the nuclear industry’s waste in Nevada at Yucca Mountain. This plan is getting some attention from the Republican Party of Nevada. Because the economic chips are down, some are willing to sell their souls, or at least the health of their children and grandchildren, for some short-term economic gain.

Last month, the Nevada Republican Central Committee took a field trip to Yucca Mountain to see just how safe it would be to store the deadliest garbage known to man.

For years, the Department of Energy has been waving the money bait in the faces of Nevadans, hoping greed will overcome their good senses.

With the economic collapse of 2008, a no-new-tax governor, a weary gaming industry, broken retirement funds — just to name a few of our aches and pains — a cash infusion might be inviting to some.

The lifeless body of the Yucca Mountain Project, Nevada’s greatest demon, could start to quiver with life at the smell of fear. The fear of economic destitution is a powerful one, so beware.

Former Republican Nevada Gov. Robert List, who has become a nuke lobbyist, led the tour of fellow Republicans. List is the only former Nevada governor to turn against Nevada on this issue.

List’s actions remind me of something my father, Mike O’Callaghan, also a former Nevada governor, wrote in this space in 2002.

“So who are the people supporting this dumping on Nevada?” he wrote. “Generally speaking, they are people who have made a living from some part of the nuclear business, plan to make money from it or are presently making big bucks from it. A large majority of Nevadans who love living in this area and are raising families don’t want any part of having the waste, and all of its obvious problems, on their highways or deposited in a place that science hasn’t been able to support.”

Seven years later, his words still ring true, and Robert List is the poster boy.

The conservative talk radio hosts are claiming that Nevada is snubbing its nose at billions of dollars in economic benefits that could fix the billion-dollar state budget deficit.

I would call that blood money.

More than 70 percent of Nevadans oppose Yucca Mountain, but could the thought of economic prosperity change their minds? The way I see it, that’s what the nuke pushers are hoping for.

For decades, we have recognized Yucca Mountain as being pure politics at the national level, but the sides were split more regionally. States that had nuclear power supported Yucca Mountain. Those that didn’t, opposed it, fearing the trucks hauling waste through their states.

However, this year it has turned partisan in the state of Nevada. Bob List, pushing his influence on his fellow Republicans to attempt CPR on a “dead on arrival” Yucca Mountain Project is deplorable.

Who can forget how President George W. Bush promised the people of Nevada just eight years ago that the project would be based on sound science? Everyone knew the science was flawed, so with that promise, Nevada gave President Bush the votes he needed to win. In turn, he shoved it up our collective promised repository. Today, the science remains flawed.

President-elect Barack Obama has also said Yucca Mountain is dead and, with Nevada being one of the most influential states in the country because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s clout, we have a sense of security.

That doesn’t mean we can let our guard down for a second, no matter how tough the economy gets. Once you sell your soul, you can’t get it back for 10,000 years, and that’s a long time, even on God’s clock.

My only hope is that the Nevada Republican Party chooses a better path and decides not to risk the health and futures of generations in Nevada to come.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column for the Home News.