GOP presidential hopeful outlines stand on Nevada nuke dump issue

CARSON CITY, Nev. - George W. Bush produced a long-awaited statement Tuesday on a national dump for radioactive waste that drew raves from Republicans and derision from Democrats.

In a letter to Gov. Kenny Guinn, Republican presidential candidate Bush said the nuclear waste dump's location should be determined by science not politics.

While the statement echoes earlier comments by President Clinton, it lacks Clinton's insistence, in his recent veto of dump legislation, on continued Environmental Protection Agency controls over the dump.

Despite the omissions in the May 3 letter, the Republican Guinn said the statement was definitive and ''a great victory for Nevada on the most critical issue facing our state.''

Democrats who led the fight in Congress to sustain Clinton's veto didn't see it the same way.

''It's a joke. It's not worth the paper it's written on,'' said Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., adding that Bush didn't say whether he would veto the dump bill that Clinton just rejected.

''This letter is so meaningless and mealy-mouthed,'' said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the minority whip. ''I've lost all respect for Bush. If this is the best he can do, he shouldn't be president.''

Reid added that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore is solidly in line with Clinton on the dump issue.

Guinn and other top Republicans, including Rep. Jim Gibbons, Senate hopeful John Ensign and House contender Jon Porter, had pressed Bush to comment on the nuclear dump because it's turned into a hot Nevada campaign issue.

The state Democratic Party recently launched radio ads charging that more Republicans in Washington could mean nuclear waste in Nevada, and that the nuclear waste industry has given ''nearly half a million dollars to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and GOP congressional candidates.''

Republicans fired back with ads noting that congressional Democrats overwhelmingly supported a ''Screw Nevada'' bill during the 1980s that sought to have the dump located at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

Clinton last week vetoed legislation that would have allowed thousands of tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste to be shipped to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Senate Republican leaders tried unsuccessfully last week to override the veto, but fell three senators short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass the measure over the president's objections.

Clinton said he vetoed the bill in part because it would prevent the EPA from developing radiation standards for a permanent Yucca Mountain waste site before June 2001.

Sen. Bryan has said the delay was put into the bill by Republicans in hopes that Bush by then would be in the White House and allow a less stringent radiation standard than the one being considered by the EPA.

In his letter to Guinn, Bush said, ''I believe sound science, and not politics, must prevail in the designation of any high-level nuclear waste repository.''

''As president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe. I also believe the federal government must work with the local and state governments that will be affected to address safety and transportation issues.''

Bryan said that's ''kind of like saying people who run for office should be honest and should treat their mothers with respect. What the hell does that tell us? He doesn't tell us anything.''

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