Las Vegas Sun

January 29, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Yucca, as merely a dump, is not viable

Editor’s note: Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., has taken issue with a column I wrote last week and responded with a letter to the editor. What the congressman did not do, however, was reassure Nevadans who wonder if he is fighting every effort by the Republican-controlled House, of which he is a member, to breathe life back into the plans to make Yucca Mountain a radioactive waste dump. In my view, he needs to be emphatic that in no way will he let that camel’s nose get back under Nevada’s tent.

Rep. Heck’s response follows, and I welcome his next response, the one that speaks clearly on behalf of Nevadans and against the nuclear power industry’s efforts to undermine our safety and health. — Brian Greenspun

Brian Greenspun’s column regarding Yucca Mountain, "Killing Yucca Mountain would be a real gift," inaccurately illustrates my position on the subject. To be clear: I do not support Yucca Mountain as a long-term nuclear waste storage facility.

As the Las Vegas Sun reported on July 15, I voted against the Energy and Water Appropriations Act because, “the legislation continues funding a project that is unpopular and has long been considered dead, Yucca Mountain, despite other feasible options. We must move past ideas and technology from a bygone era and begin exploring options that will create jobs, and are supported by Nevadans.”

I have repeatedly stated that Yucca Mountain, as a long-term nuclear waste dump, is a “nonstarter, and that we should look at acceptable job-creating alternatives for the site.”

Sticking our country’s nuclear waste in a hole in the ground is a 20th century solution. Instead, we should encourage the use of 21st century technology. We have the opportunity to create a research and development park, a position that has been supported by others in this delegation — including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Embracing 21st century solutions to the problems we face is critical to maintaining our nation’s economic and technological superiority. Given the history of Nevada’s nuclear test site, the available expertise and the infrastructure we possess, Nevada is uniquely suited to become the nation’s leader in research and development of nuclear energy. Creating a research and development park is one option, and I remain open to others.

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  1. Is "Research and Development Park" code for reprocessing nuclear waste? If it is, I guarantee Harry Reid doesn't and won't support it. No nuclear waste nohow is all Mr. Heck had to say, but as yet another weasel in Congress, he just couldn't. Let's kick this guy to the curb in 2012.

  2. Dear Congressman Heck: While I am a supporter, you must take the mask off your position on Yucca Mountain. A research park is a code word for bringing the waste in some form to Nevada--that's not the right answer. Further, any type of major accumulated mass of waste product is not the right or even the current thinking of society for this matter. We need to move more in the direction of the French who have a much better social response to nuclear waste--they process it initially and vitrify it for temporary storage in a number of locations until a "permanent solution" is created. That solution works for the French, and certainly should work for us. The French obtain the vast majority of their electric energy from nuclear power. The U.S. only about 20%. We are already embarking on a 21st Century approach to nuclear waste storage which makes Yucca Mountain obsolete. In his book The Quest Daniel Yergin describes the evolving approaches to these energy issues in up to date fashion. Unless we stay current with the evolving approaches as he describes in his major new work, we are bound to remain stuck in the past, and debate obsolete issues. I recommend this reading to Congressman Heck.

  3. UNLV has an excellent research program supporting advanced nuclear fuel-cycle development. It collaborates nation- and world-wide. It gets respect. Money should go to building up that UNLV capability, maybe with an adjunct facility for live radioactive research on fabriacating and testing new fuel types at the Nevada National Security Site. That work would be future-oriented, and would have nothing to do with used fuel and other wastes produced in the past.

  4. Dr. Heck. We already have vacant "Research & Development" parks -- right here in our District. People don't have to go 100 miles out of town for R&D -- and it is not likely anyone would do so. After all, the Test Site has been proposed for all sorts of things, and none of them ever panned out. The two most recent proposals I can recall are using it as a civilian space port and doing reprocessing research. A civilian spaceport is being built in California and another in New Mexico, having rejected Nevada, and the leading edge technology nuclear nuclear separation pilot plant is being built in North Carolina -- not Yucca or the Test Site. What all those places seem to have that we do not is: "infrastructure."

    But when all is said and done, whether R&D or storage facility, whether temporary or permanent, Yucca is NOT a good place to hold nuclear waste. It takes 1,000,000 years for Uranium and its "daughters" to decay to background levels of radiation. As you can see clearly from looking around you when you are here, the area goes through wet cycles and dry cycles. The fossil evidence and the geologic record are all around us. Wet and Dry. Currently we are in the dry part of the cycle. The "science" assumes: (1) dry and (2) we will always be able to do something effective if (when) (1) changes. (Like move it someplace safer.)

    What we've learned, or should have learned, from cleaning up former R&D sites is that the stuff moves and spreads contamination far beyond the laboratories, even though we use "best methods" to handle it.

    Give it up.

  5. Congressman Joe "Pay Per View" Heck is playing word games here.

    He's making it sound like Nevada can lead the nation in nuclear fuel waste re-processing and reap piles of money off of that. I do have to agree that putting it in Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) in order to use science to make money is a commendable position.

    But what he is not letting people know is what he is saying is right now a fantasy. That nuclear waste will IN FACT end up being stored there for eternity.

    Because nuclear waste re-processing, as of right now, is a pipedream. It is not a perfected science at all.

    In France, they have tried it. Besides the technology not being perfected regarding it, they found out the process is too long and too time consuming. Also, it is expensive and the ways don't justify the means.

    So, just like everything that Heck does and says in his mindless Tea/Republican Party universe, it only makes sense to him if he can make money off of it. He wants the wool pulled over Southern Nevada's eyes.

    If he talks all of you into doing something against your best interest and he can make money off it, then he's all for it.

    People need to wake up and get rid of Heck. He's a hack. A predator.

    If you sit back and research his voting record in the short time he's been in office, you will find he represents the Tea/Republican Party position on EVERYTHING. He don't represent Southern Nevada on anything. We are all victims waiting to happen in his stupid universe. He's more interested in licking Speaker Boehner's shoes and doing EXACTLY as directed.

    I'm not snowed by this guy.

    When's your next town hall where you have to pay a price of admission to enter, Heck? I make a suggestion that you do it on Wednesdays and designate it as ladies night where they get in for free, making everyone else pay.

    One thing for sure, to this day, I have NEVER EVER seen you do a town hall meeting in Eastern Las Vegas.

    I am so glad I'm not in your Congressional District anymore. You're a waste. I just hope your constituents see you for what you are and vote you out as soon as they can.

  6. It is time for yucca mountain nuclear repository supporters to give it up. This monstrosity of a dump will not happen here in Nevada.

  7. Lots of comments and most of them don't interest me.

    However, the comments about earthquakes and water did. The Yucca Mountain license application rightly assumed that the future would be like the past, meaning that 80% of the time would be cooler and wetter than now, just as has been the case for the last half million years. The frequency of climate changes used was based on the nearby record from Devils Hole's walls (Google it), which shows the changes between the oxygen-18 and -16 isotopes as a function of overall climate. Nice scientific work. And fully incorporated into the performance estimates.

    Same for earthquakes, nearby faults were looked at, and if "capable" (a technical term meaning it has moved in the Quaternary and thus could move again), then a range of likely earthquake magnitudes was chosen by several independent experts and the aggregate damage function was used to determine the failure rate of waste packages.

    Other disruptive events were similarly incorporated, using conservative estimates for their likelihood.

    The end result? The likely outcome was a measly 1% rise in the background radioactivity on the nearest arable land to the site.

    This was mostly a result of additional radioactivity in very local groundwater. Las Vegas Valley Water District shows the radioactivity in the city's water supply on their website. Increasing that by 1 or 2 % is meaningless in terms of public health.

    We live in a radioactive world. We are radioactive (potassium-40 in our bones). Our food is radioactive (bananas and peanuts and oranges, great sources of potassium, yum!).

  8. Typical equivocation by Congressman Heck.
    I see this guy as an enemy of the citizenry and a shill for the powers/companies/special interests that pay/support him.
    God forbid he gets any more power to harm us all.

  9. Only a foolish person would take the risk of ruining their home,jobs,etc by bringing nuclear waste into the State of Nevada. Just think about it, all it would take is one incident involving this deadly material any where in the State. Tourist would avoid us like a plague. You think foreclosures are bad today? Think about it Mr gogowhitesox. Common sense will prevail despite foolish talk and name calling when you disagree with another poster's views.

  10. Gee, wonder how all that trusted 21st century science worked out for those hit with a major nuclear accident there in JAPAN recently??? Perhaps a lesson here.

    Goes to show, we still need to utilize both science and common sense in life.

    There are NO 100% guarantees that when you couple human beings with any project that you will reap 100% results. It is a true gamble to believe in such a fairy tale. The People of Nevada are NOT willing to take such a gamble and Nevada's Congressman Heck needs to represent them. So far, we are NOT convinced, Congressman Heck, of your position.

    The citizens over in Los Alamos, New Mexico, welcome all the high level nuclear waste states can afford to send them. Let them have it!

    Blessings and Peace,