Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 | 7:45 p.m.
In the recent Reno Gazette-Journal poll the economy topped the list of issues Democratic voters in Nevada care most about, edging out health care and the Iraq war. The environment, meanwhile, was a distant forth. Yet the passion stirred by the mention of the nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain can never be totally discounted here.
So it was that Sen. Hillary Clinton found herself at UNLV Wednesday morning leading a discussion on the topic with academics and activists -- all uniformly against the waste site.
"The process for evaluation and approval of Yucca Mountain was as flawed as the site itself," said Clinton."When I am president, Yucca Mountain will be off the table once and for all."
That sentiment echoes the other Democrats in the race, who all say they oppose the waste site.
But Clinton tried today to portray herself as the candidate with the deepest environmental record and the longest record of opposing the waste site at Yucca Mountain. She also took the opportunity to tout her plan to fund alternative energies, and blasted the Bush administration for sidelining scientific research that doesn't support its agenda.
"It's imperative that the next president reestablish the integrity of scientific information," said Clinton. "We are grownups in America. We can take it."
Either way, the caucus this weekend is unlikely to hinge on the topic. But come November, expect Yucca Mountain to come up again and again, said Steven Parker, a political science professor at UNLV who was part of today's conversation with Clinton.
"No matter who the Republicans field, they'll probably be for the waste site, and no matter who the Democrats field they'll be against it, so this will be a lot more important in November," said Parker.
The Clinton campaign itself moved on pretty quickly. Even before the senator arrived at the Yucca Mountain talk, staff had handed out to press a briefing on Clinton's economic stimulus proposals and a memo that said economic issues will be the focus of the campaign for the next few weeks. Clinton was in Reno this afternoon talking about the economy.