Nevada GOP surrenders on Yucca project

At its statewide convention in Reno last weekend, the Nevada Republican Party surrendered to the federal government on the noxious Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump issue in a pathetic political performance that placed the interests of the nuclear energy industry above the best interests of the people of the state of Nevada.

This total capitulation on an issue of such vital importance to our state will cost the GOP and President Bush thousands of votes next November.

Appeal capital correspondent Geoff Dornan reported that Nevada Republicans approved a platform plank that supported "enforcement of environmental regulations to solve scientifically demonstrated problems using methods which have undergone peer review ...." Blah blah blah. A second GOP platform plank urged the state "to negotiate with the federal government to minimize the effects of federal control and use of lands in Nevada" without mentioning Yucca Mountain. In other words, our Republican friends want to negotiate a big payoff with the Feds in exchange for turning the Silver State into the nation's nuclear waste dump. Thanks but no thanks!

These stealthy platform planks undercut GOP elected officials - including Gov. Kenny Guinn, Attorney General Brian Sandoval, Sen. John Ensign and Congressman Jim Gibbons - who are fighting the nuclear dump proposal in Congress and in the federal courts. "I've always opposed Yucca Mountain," Gibbons said after his party's surrender to the U.S. Energy Department and the nuclear power industry. "I don't think it's a good idea to ever give the inference of negotiating."

"We're still at a very critical point and negotiations should not be held while we're in court," added Gov. Guinn, while Sandoval observed that his party's action "could create at least some thought in Washington that there is some sympathy in Nevada (for the toxic waste dump)." Happily for us, these elected officials recognize that more than 70 percent of Nevada voters oppose the Yucca Mountain project, as well they should.

On the other hand, some Republican politicians couldn't wait to board the nuclear express. "I'm absolutely convinced there's no significant risk (from nuclear waste)," declared Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick of Gardnerville, "and I'm absolutely convinced that if we don't negotiate soon, we're going to get nothing." GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Ziser chimed in to the effect that since the nuclear waste dump is inevitable, "we'd better benefit from it in some way." In other words, if political rape is inevitable, just lie back and enjoy it. Good thinking, guys; your checks are in the mail.

Last time I wrote about this subject a Yucca Mountain bureaucrat accused me of politicizing the issue. Well, of course I'm politicizing it because it is political. It's never been about "sound science," to use the president's unfortunate choice of words.

In 1987, national politicians decided to dump the nation's most highly radioactive waste on us because Nevada was perceived to be a remote desert state with few residents and little political clout. Fortunately, however, the political equation has changed in our favor since then and our bipartisan congressional delegation, led by Sen. Harry Reid, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has been fighting President Bush and the DOE at every turn to keep more than 77,000 tons of deadly poison out of our state.

But the Nevada Republican Party has now bought into a multi-million-dollar propaganda campaign financed by DOE and the nuclear energy industry. The Yucca Mountain dump is inevitable, they say, so shut up and accept it and we'll throw some federal dollars at you - sort of like dragging hundred-dollar bills through trailer parks (Remember that one?). That's what I heard at a local Republican women's luncheon last month when a retired Yucca Mountain engineer attempted to convince his audience that highly radioactive nuclear waste is safe and good for us. I was pleased when a couple of well-informed ladies challenged his rosy scenario.

The inevitability argument is the cornerstone of a multi-million-dollar PR campaign financed by the nuclear energy industry and enthusiastically endorsed by the Bush White House and DOE; however, retired UC/Davis engineering professor Paul Craig, who resigned from the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board in protest last January, explained what they're up to in an Appeal column last Wednesday.

"The big reason for the rush (for Yucca Mountain approval) is that the nuclear industry is desperate for the government to take nuclear waste off its hands," he wrote. "The result is a clear case of the tail wagging the dog. Protecting the public should come first." Prof. Craig added that he hopes his resignation from the Review Board "will bring attention to what's going on at Yucca Mountain."

We should be listening to experts like Prof. Craig instead of to weak-kneed politicians who have decided to get into a dangerous, radioactive bed with the White House and DOE. Remember what Gov. Guinn said at a public hearing three years ago: The nuclear waste storage issue "is paramount to the health and safety of every Nevadan and every American whose home, school or place of business sits along the proposed path that the deadliest substance on earth" will travel. Although a few political turncoats are willing to mortgage the future health and safety of our children and grandchildren for federal handouts, most of us recognize a bribe when we see one.

So let's just say "NO!" to those who are willing to sell out the state of Nevada for federal dollars.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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