Nuclear issue aiding Kerry in Nevada

Nevada has become an “August surprise” for President George W. Bush. The president earlier believed he had a lock on the western state, but a somewhat dormant issue has exploded into public prominence and produced a political shift among Nevada voters.

The issue that has skewed the political climate is a remote pile of rocks and earth called Yucca Mountain. Yucca Mountain is about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. Las Vegas Review Journal Columnist Steve Sebelius recently wrote that Yucca Mountain is just a funny name to the nation at large, but in Nevada it is a political litmus test.

The mountain has become the top issue in Nevada’s campaign and may well determine who wins the state’s electoral votes—Bush or Democrat John F. Kerry.

The reason is that Bush wants to put 77,000 tons or more of nuclear waste inside the mountain. That waste now resides at more than 100 places across the country.

In the 2000 campaign, Bush told the voters if he were elected he would not put radioactive waste inside the mountain without assurances from the scientific community that it is safe. The most radioactive waste would be stored there. It has a half-life of many thousands of years.

Bush, at that time, said he would base his decision on sound science, not politics. In a letter to Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, Bush wrote: “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.”

Two years later, Bush signed an instrument that would make Yucca Mountain the nation’s nuclear waste repository. The Reno Gazette-Journal said: “President Bush took less than a day to review thousands of pages of documents and thousands of pages of scientific studies and literally did it overnight. That is what is causing a lot of people to question that this is based on sound science.”

Many Nevadans believe Bush failed to keep his campaign promise. “There is not a single independent scientific organization or body that supports the Department of Energy’s position on Yucca Mountain,” said Bob Loux, Nevada director of nuclear projects.

USA Today commented: “Dozens of scientific studies remain incomplete, and a recent federal appeals court ruling raised questions about whether the repository will be built.”

Critics contend there are serious scientific issues about the safety of the waste canisters and the site itself. Bush insists Yucca Mountain should be the national mega-nuclear dump. He defended that proposal last week in an appearance in Las Vegas, while accusing Kerry of flip-flopping on the issue.

Journalist Erin Neff wrote: “But Kerry opposed storing nuclear waste on an interim basis in Nevada in the 1990s, and in 2002 he voted with Nevada to sustain Gov. Kenny Guinn’s veto of the repository. President Bush had designated Yucca Mountain the repository site despite a 2000 campaign statement that he would base any decision on ‘sound science, not politics.’”

As opinion surveys continue to show that most Nevadans are against the Yucca Mountain project, Kerry’s solid opposition as opposed to Bush’s vagueness appears to be shifting public opinion. Voters are switching support from Bush to Kerry.

Source: Intervention

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