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April 23, 2014

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Amodei: No reason to close Yucca Mountain entirely

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Mark Amodei

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For three decades, firm opposition to any sort of nuclear development for Yucca Mountain has been a rite of passage for any candidate seeking national political office representing Nevada.

But the past few congressional races, Republicans have been bending that rule.

Mark Amodei, candidate for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District seat, told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Sun on Monday that he would be happy to keep funding the development of the Yucca Mountain project through the Energy Department, with the hope of turning it into a bastion of nuclear research and reprocessing.

“I don’t celebrate every time somebody says it’s funded at zero,” Amodei said. “I support Joe Heck’s efforts. I think there are opportunities to do things out there.”

Amodei stresses that he’s against turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear landfill, but doesn’t appear opposed to transporting radioactive waste to and from the site if it could be brought to rural Nevada for reprocessing.

The transport issue, for many Las Vegans, is as much a concern as the storage.

“Why can’t we do the R&D for reprocessing here? Why can’t we do a best practices center here? Why can’t we do nuclear safety here?” Amodei asked rhetorically. “I think there are opportunities to make that something other than a nuclear landfill.”

To date, Nevada hasn’t been an ideal candidate for reprocessing because the commercially viable processes rely too much on water. A gas-cooled process does exist, but isn’t widely available.

So, say this latest crop of politicians, let Nevada develop the way of the future.

Amodei wouldn’t be the first to try to walk this political tightrope: Heck has adopted a position of less resistance to Yucca Mountain since coming to Congress. But Heck’s argument — that the millions that have already been invested could bring thousands of jobs to Nevada — has earned mixed reviews. Heck was compelled enough to clear things up that he took a stand this summer, attempting to strip funding from the House’s Energy and Water appropriations bill because it included funding for Yucca Mountain, and when his effort failed, voting against the bill.

Yucca Mountain is one of the few programs that the bill, sponsored by Republican leaders in the House, didn’t cut. Amodei wants to hold on to that funding — and has even bigger plans for it than Heck down the line.

“If you fund it at zero, then you’re put in the position of going back and saying in these economic times of budgeting, ‘oh, by the way, now that we asked you to zero it out, we’d like you to fund other stuff.’ I just think it’s a heavier lift,” Amodei explained. “I think you need a nuclear safety best practices center, a training center ... if the Department of Energy wanted to justify its existence, we could do some work which would be worldwide in nature.”

That would represent a return to Nevada’s roots: The Nevada Test Site, also known as Area 51, was the center of the nuclear universe in the early years when nuclear development was geared toward military purposes. But Nevada’s seen nothing like that sort of spotlight when it comes to nuclear development for energy: The Silver State doesn’t have a single nuclear power plant, and currently boasts only one research facility at UNLV.

Nevada politicians who have opposed Yucca Mountain regularly in the past — that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley — remain opposed to it.

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  1. Too bad the only part of Amodei's putative District is in Southern Highlands. That way, few people in Southern Nevada who would be put at risk from truck collisions involving radioactive waste haulers can vote against him. My main hope is that the voters in the District will figure out that Mr. Amodei has the same peculiar qualities as Michele Bachmann's husband, and let their "instincts" tell them what kind of person they don't want representing them.

  2. Area 51 is only a small part of the Nevada Test Site in the northeast corner around Groom Lake, one of many areas. Groom lake was originally observed by Tony LeVier and selected in part by Kelly Johnson for testing and development of the U2.

    Today, it has a very large large paved runway that connects with the dry lake with research facilities close by. Nuclear testing was never carried out there. It can be seen by typing 'area 51, NV' into Google.

    Yucca Mtn is a political football. Commuting and working there is a 15+ hour/day experience: up at 3:30am, home at 7:30pm or later. The legs stop moving after 2 hours on the bus. It is an extremely expensive proposition in every way, a project to throw money away with mostly roadkill as a return.

    When Amodei talks about increasing operations at Yucca Mtn, he is advocating a very expensive, inefficient and wasteful project. Amodei wants to make the Government more efficient yet is willing to throw money away on his pet projects. His talk and his actions are 180 degrees apart - as usual - and without a bit of understanding of the technology or goals.

  3. News flash! Republican admits to being for government spending.

  4. Of course all of those Right wing nuts in rural Nevada will vote for this mining industry employee so that the mines continue to pay us virtually no taxes while taking our minerals. When will these Tea Nuts wisen up, when their goverment checks dry up?

  5. Is Amodei confusing the Test Site with Yucca Mtn? As to Yucca, GE has spent a lot of money developing a new laser system which can be used to separate isotopes of elements, with the first pilot scale facility to separate U-235. The same technology could be applied to separate any desired element from others. The bottom line is that the GE laser separation technology could be used to separate and reprocess nuclear waste for re-use. No more need for Yucca to hold it underground for a million years until radioactivity declines to background levels. Doing this at Yucca is a pipedream because: A: We don't have the skilled workforce, B: We don't have GE here -- they are building in a State with a real educational system (and, which taxes companies), and a more "family-oriented" environment, and C: That other State is a lot closer to the nuclear power plants, which means that there is less transportation risk.

  6. Here is yet another reason to not vote for Mr. Amodei.

    The guy is ignorant to say Yucca should be opened to conduct R&D on nuclear waste re-processing. He doesn't seem to understand this research has already been done before and is still being done elsewhere.

    In France, the scientists came up with learned opinions that it is too expensive to do...not cost effective at all. Plus they determine it requires too much time to accomplish re-processing. The uses are limited. And they eventually even admitted that it is not perfected. Not even close.

    I read earler on a LV Sun article that this research is actually being done in some form by UNLV already. Not to mention other places in the U.S. and worldwide.

    So, he has no clue what he's talking about. He's making stuff up. Because in the Republican hell he populates, the ends are more important than the means. If the means don't make sense? Just throw it out there anyways. Really transparent. Just blowing hot air.

    And another point was made in this article. How the hell can you re-process stuff in the middle of the desert? Unless you come up with an innovative way of replacing water with using scorpions, tarantulas and side slithering desert creatures instead.

    I just hope the voters realize Amodei is a bumbler. He talks stuff he don't know. And what he talks only fits a Republican Party agenda from hell. The majority of people here in Southern Nevada DO NOT want Yucca Mountain Project to continue. It will die. And we have the political clout to make sure it dies. We don't care what laws were set up before, what courts are deciding, what money is being spent, or whatever...don't matter. Yucca is dead.

    We have a say what happens in Nevada. Not anyone else. We say it's dead, it stays dead. Battalions of scientists and legions of lawyers can line up and differ all they want, but it don't mean snot. No means no means no means no and IT STILL means no. We refuse to agree to accept the most harmful substance known to mankind here in Nevada and give that legacy to future generations of Nevadans. It's madness. Sheer, utter madness. Because one simple mistake, it's over. You don't get another chance. Done. Southern Nevada is history.

    If Amodei gets voted in, those constituents in CD2 deserve everything he does to them.

    I am starting to believe that Republicans originally came from the Planet Mercury. Mercury was thriving, but because of their stupid policies, Mercury became a dead planet. By their own hand. Then they came to Earth to re-populate and will eventually do the same here. Then they leave and go do it somewhere else.

    Serious sci fi channel stuff.

    Perhaps Amodei is an alien. No not illegal alien. Alien. Bent on the destruction of Southern Nevada.

  7. Excellent comment Colin!

  8. He's got my vote. Smart to consider using what has been developed there to help the state recover and diversify the economy. I guess all the enviros want to shut down any development in Nevada!

  9. Gollee, gosh. We don't have the technology, we don't have the people, and there is no need to do it there ... but it is fiscally responsible to use public money on something that isn't needed, and we don't know how to do, and don't have (and can't attract) the people who could do it -- in a place that makes no economic sense to do it. Yessiree, that fella will fit right in in Washington, D.C.

  10. I like Goodman's comment. He makes a good point when he says "there is no need to do it there." Yucca right now is just a 5-mile tunnel from nowhere to nowhere.

    But he is wrong, I think, when he says we don't have the people, as someone else already pointed out, they are at UNLV right now. If Amodei really wants to push US nuclear energy progress he ought to be fomenting for a new more sophisiticated radiochemistry laboratory facility at UNLV, and for more funding from the feds to speed up work on advanced technologies to get more power from uranium.

    It pains me, just a little, to read research papers coming out of China on the possibility of using a combination of many light-water reactors(LWRs) and a few heavy-water reactors (Canadian CANDUs) to cycle fuel first through the LWRs and then, when it is "spent," through the CANDUs to get still more energy out, several years' worth, and only then reprocess it to make mixed oxide fuels that go back into LWRs. It is a clever way to extend the useful life of the fuel. That is the sort of innovation that UNLV could materially contribute to, and that is where money ought to go to bring about a more affordable future energy source for the US. In my never-humble but always personal opinion.