Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

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Editorial: Nuclear wasted

Go v. Jim Gibbons arrogantly dismissed wise advice on the state's battle to stop federal plans to put a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain and now is seeing it bite Nevada.

State officials say the Energy Department has been illegally using water for a drilling project at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Doing so violates a 2003 court-ordered agreement on water use, said State Engineer Tracy Taylor, Nevada's water czar.

However, instead of holding a firm line and immediately telling federal officials to stop, Gibbons decided to let the illegal water grab go on for 30 more days so workers at Yucca Mountain could wrap up the project.

On Friday an attorney for the Energy Department called Nevada's position "unacceptable" and argued that by allowing 30 days of water use, the state "implicitly recognizes" that the Energy Department has a legitimate need for the water.

As reported by Jeff German in the Las Vegas Sun last week, Gibbons met with other state officials involved in the Yucca fight and ignored their advice. With the Energy Department clearly in the wrong, they urged him to come down hard on the Energy Department, but Gibbons reminded all present that he was a lawyer and geologist. He gave the Energy Department room to maneuver and ammunition against the state.

He has clearly shown his ignorance on the issue, having, for example, to rescind an appointment last week to the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects after it was learned he had named a dump supporter to the panel.

The only good news on Yucca Mountain last week came from Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a presidential candidate who showed a keen understanding of the issue. She called for congressional hearings on Yucca Mountain because of the flawed work and Bush administration's handling of it, and she said if she is elected she will stop the project.

That is the type of strong message that Nevada's governor should send to Washington. Gibbons' message, one of implicit conciliation, is unacceptable.

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