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July 29, 2014

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McCain’s about-face on Yucca

“I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.”

— John McCain, 5/27/08

If a man told you for years that he didn’t love you, essentially had no regard for you at all, and then suddenly, when he needed you, told you he adored you, would you fall for it?

As John McCain, alighting in Reno today, tries to woo Nevada voters, he is hoping for the kind of short-term memory loss Christopher Nolan wrote about and filmed in “Memento.” If Nevadans keep forgetting what he has said and done before, McCain might actually be able to convince voters here that his love for the state has simply been well-hidden. Very well-hidden.

Voters everywhere are used to being treated like ingenuous dumbbells by politicians trolling for their votes. But not since George W. Bush declined all interviews on the subject and uttered his “sound science” mantra has a White House hopeful so obviously taken the state for a bunch of rubes.

McCain made his comments in Denver as part of a larger speech on nuclear power the day before he is scheduled to be in Northern Nevada, which is either one of the largest coincidences in the history of politics or a calculated strategy to help him win a pivotal swing state. (Not that he needs to be right on Yucca Mountain, which will probably factor into few Nevadans’ decisions in November, if history is any guide. Just ask the president.)

McCain’s proposal would seem more sincere if only he hadn’t been so sincerely committed to the dump — and been so unabashed and frank about his support. But on the eve of his trip to Reno and on the eve of a general election in which Nevada could well be critical, the Straight Talk Express took a detour from its planned stop at Yucca Mountain.

McCain is an enthusiastic supporter of nuclear power and a fervent backer of Yucca Mountain as a suitable storage site. The evidence is plentiful:

• In 2002, when final approval was assured after 20 years of debate, McCain told his home-state newspaper, The Arizona Republic, that the Nevada dump site would help the federal government resolve “one of the most important environmental, health and public safety issues for the American people.”

• Just over a year ago, he was described as adopting a mocking tone when he told the Deseret News in Utah: “Oh, you have to travel through states ... I am for Yucca Mountain. I’m for storage facilities. It’s a lot better than sitting outside power plants all over America.”

• Less than three weeks ago, Reuters ran a piece that said McCain “supports the Yucca Mountain storage facility and believes opposition to it is harmful to U.S. interests.” And the piece quoted one of his advisers as saying, “The political opposition to the Yucca Mountain storage facility is harmful to the U.S. interest and the facility should be completed, opened and utilized.”

So in the past few weeks, McCain has experienced an epiphany and decided there should be some sort of international repository for the fuel that he had so long wanted to come here? This is believable?

And such a cockamamie solution, too.

We are going to ship nuclear waste overseas? Will Kathie Lee Gifford be seen dancing on a Carnival deck, pointing to canisters and promising cut rates to those tourists who travel onboard? John McCain’s Love Boat?

And exactly where overseas are we going to ship the waste? There’s plenty of room inside the Colosseum, right? I am sure it would be safe for, say 100, even 10,000 years, in Baghdad now that the war is almost over. Or perhaps Myanmar — I hear the weather is always lovely there.

I find it fitting that McCain would come up with this harebrained solution, which makes little policy or political sense and does not jibe with his past positions, on the same day the Nevada delegation began a petition drive to urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject the licensing of Yucca Mountain. If this really isn’t the typical one-election stand that politicians have been promising Nevada every four years, and if McCain wants to prove his love is real, I am sure he would be happy to sign the petition when he arrives in Nevada today.

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