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October 21, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

We won’t do that

Talk of negotiating for benefits in return for nuke waste is laughable

In what has become a delicious parody on campaigning, Marvin E. Quasniki is running for the Republican presidential nomination. A “turquoise farmer” from Tonopah, Quasniki isn’t a real candidate: He’s a puppet created by the Jim Henson Company.

He does, however, talk politics and make light of the issues. In an interview with our Washington correspondent, Karoun Demirjian, Quasniki took on the Yucca Mountain project, the plan to put the nation’s nuclear waste in a volcanic ridge 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“Basically, Nevada, you’ve got a problem there where there’s a lot of unemployed people. So basically, Nevada should become the state of, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that!’ You know, give us your nuclear crap and send us that crud and we’ll take it and we’ll deal with it. ... Nevada should be ‘We’ll do that!’ Then the next thing you know, other states are like, ‘Well, who’s doing that? Oh, they’re doing that? Nevada’s doing that? Well, why didn’t we say we’d do that?’”

In a moment of life imitating parody, Nevada’s newest member of Congress, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, is supporting talks of bringing high-level nuclear waste to the state. In a statement on his website, Amodei said he believes the Energy Department should continue to fund the project and Congress should develop it into not just a dump but also as a “bastion for nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Amodei argues that Nevada should “work to dictate the terms of the repository under the best conditions for our state. This facility has the potential to not only be a job creator in Nye County, but also throughout the state if done properly.”

Or, as Quasniki put it, “Yeah, we’ll do that.”

Amodei’s view is just as fictional as Quasniki’s candidacy, and he’s parroting a fairy tale penned by the nuclear power industry, which has long pined to dump its waste in Nevada. The whole argument is better left to parody because it is disingenuous.

Yucca Mountain a job creator? Other than the temporary construction work, how many people does it take to babysit high-level nuclear waste? A center for research and reprocessing? Neither the nuclear power industry nor Yucca Mountain’s supporters have argued for doing anything other than making the site a nuclear waste dump. No one could reasonably believe that researchers would uproot their labs to follow the waste.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, one of the leaders in the fight against Yucca Mountain, told Reno’s “Nevada NewsMakers” last week the belief that there’s any type of financial reward attached to Yucca Mountain “absolutely is utterly false.”

“There has never been any money promised us in terms of real money out there,” Bryan said. “The industry itself has never offered anything and nor has the federal government. And I guess I would say that even if some money were offered, in my view this is a question of health and safety.”

In an interview with the Nevada News Bureau, Amodei defended his statement, saying he never said the state should take the dump outright. “I said, ‘It ain’t dead and we ought to talk,’” Amodei said.

But what’s to talk about?

For three decades, Nevadans, both Republicans and Democrats, have fought the Energy Department’s effort to create a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. President Barack Obama has ordered the Energy Department to shut down work on it. That provoked a backlash among the nuclear power industry’s supporters in Congress who have been desperately trying to revive it. Thanks to Nevada’s congressional delegation, particularly Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, those efforts haven’t gotten far.

This isn’t the time to roll over and say Nevada should start negotiating to take nuclear waste but the time to finish it.

If anything, the Quasniki parody shows how ludicrous it is to take high-level nuclear waste in the hope of receiving some economic benefit. It would just make Nevada the state that will do anything for a buck, and that’s hardly something to aspire to.

At least when Quasniki says it, it’s a joke. When a sitting member of Congress says it, it’s not so funny.

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  1. New Mexico, Los Alamos Laboratories, welcomes high level radioactive waste! Send it to them and allow them, who gladly receive it, benefit. Nevada has enough pristine landscape permanently marred from nuclear contamination, and countless lives claimed to cancers due to exposure for endless lifetimes. We did our part. Enough is enough.

    I wonder where ALL the political candidates stand on Yucca Mountain High Level Radioactive Waste Repository Project.

    Hopefully, the Battle Born State of Nevada, has the enduring will to discern, and draw definite lines, especially in regards to the Yucca Mountain Project, and absolutely yell, "We WON'T do that!"

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  2. I think we are missing the boat here. I think we should be investing money to develop methods to handle and reprocess nuclear fuel. It is the cleanest method we have that can generate energy on a large scale. No emissions!

    I have often wondered how our sailors in nuclear powered submarines live so close to the reactors without detrimental effects.

  3. Star...

    Amen to that.

    New Rteapublican platform;

    "but...but...but...it's a JOB creator!"

    Oh, pulleeze.

    Similar to the pipeline controversy, the facks & figgurs have been grossly exaggerated by some folks...amazingly, these claims ONLY come from the right; You do not hear one single solitary Democrat saying, 'well, we ought to take another look at this...there's a boatload of jobs to be had here'...

    Why?

    The cost/benefit analysis of a few odd jobs (many temporary) vs. the inherent risk of disaster indicates to the majority of Nevadans/Americans that, upon further review, 'We Won't Do Dat'.

  4. Star-Ali, I am sorry, but it is NOT Los Alamos that wants the nuclear waste. It is Carlsbad. In fact there is much pressure to clean up Los Alamos, which is situated on volcanic tuff ridges emanting from the Jemez Caldera, ~10 million years old, just like Yucca.

    It is quite a beautiful place, pine forest all around, skiing in Winter, not a severe desert like Yucca Mountain. The idea is to move its existing transuranic (long-lived, but not heat emitting) wastes down to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP, about 400 miles south but also in New Mexico.

    The town of Carlsbad wants to expand the mission of its existing repository, WIPP. In a recent Carlsbad Mayor's Nuclear Task Force newsletter, called the 'Nuclear Nexus,' a byline reads YIMBY-"Yes in my backyard!"

    Why is their attitude so different from the attitude in urban Nevada? Experience! The town is into its 13th year of repository operations, without an incident; the effort is way past 12-million loaded transportation miles, with waste from all over the country where there are DOE facilities, without a nuclear incident. The repository helps stabilize the local economy: there never was a housing value downturn in the region!

    No one got bought off, but the federal government did pay for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the state, and actively maintains the training of first responders along all transport routes in use. It is a good, solid contributor to local and state well being, hence a letter last year from the Governor, Susana Martinez, to the Secretary of Energy, urging him to get busy and send Greater-than-Class-C waste to Carlsbad, something Nevada officially objected to having come to the Nevada National Security Site's waste burial grounds, and urging the Secretary to do the science needed to support evaluating the safety of disposing of heat-emitting waste in rock-salt, 2,150 feet below the Chihuahuan desert in 2,000 foot thick, 250-milliom year old, salt deposits.

    That salt was laid down when the Earth still had one large continent, Pangea, and before there were dinosaurs. It is very old, and very stable, yet it has fluid inclusions with viable bacterial DNA from that time, DNA similar to that of salt-loving bacteria that are around today! Fascinating stuff.

  5. John, I liked your deep thinking, thinking that led you to wonder about personnel working and sleeping next to reactors in deeply submerged nuclear submarines.

    With the sea blocking cosmic radiation and the reactors being shielded with impressive efficiency, these sailors are actually deprived of radiation, compared to you and I living on the Earth's surface!

    I have wondered the opposite: if there are health statistics showing negative effects of radiation-deprivation in nuclear-sub sailors?

    To continue the irony: there is a sophisticated cosmologically important physics experiment in progress inside the only deep geologic repository for radioactive waste in the country: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, with radioactive waste being actively put into that repository almost continually at the other end of the same tunnel.

    There is also a biological experiment in progress next to the physics experiment.

    Both experiments need to get completely away from cosmic radiation, and deep salt, like the deep ocean, blocks that radiation very effectively.

    So both our NUCLEAR submarines and our only working RADIOACTIVE waste repository are places you can go to in this country to get away from virtually all radiation! The world is (still) a curious place.

  6. Abraham, thank you for your response. That was enlightening. Being 67 yrs old, I have grown up with nuclear power. There is a finite amount available and I do not know how large that is. My point being that eventually we will have to transition away from that as well because of depletion. But, I think with recycling that amount could last us a long time. And it is clean. We just need to know more.

  7. Our state doesn't need to be the nation's dump.

  8. John, you are welcome. I am also 67! I have worked all my working life in the nuclear waste business, and am still at it.

    I do not share your view that nuclear power is limited because of ore depletion. Japan and China, plus the US, have done the research to show that when the time comes that mined uranium is depleted to the point where it is too expensive (now guessed to be a few hundred years from now), there is a way to separate uranium from seawater on a commercially viable scale.

    Of course it will be more expensive, but the cost of nuclear power is NOT driven by uranium prices, but by the cost of the reactors and the supporting infrastructures.

    There is a nifty new breeder reactor concept called the Traveling Wave Reactor, being promoted by TerraPower LLC, which can use both depleted uranium or spent fuel as a fuel. They are small, and a large city can use several, but if widely deployed that technology would help both the waste problem, and also stretch out the uranium supply for many more hundreds of years. Sure there is waste to contend with after each reactor needs refueling, about every 50 years. The reactor itself also becomes waste at some point because of activation products in its metal components, but activation products are not long-lived wastes.

    My personal wish is for the ITER reactor, an international fusion reactor under construction in France (the US is a participant), to show it can produce electricity. If fusion can work on a commercial scale, the need for fission reactors and their multilpe waste streams goes away.

    Fusion reactor metal hardware will become activated, and will need to be disposed of in a repository for about 500 years, but then the metals can be re-used, refabricated. Great solution to providing electricity universally, a form of energy that has many uses from food preservation to transportation. Electricity is a direct boost to peoples' standard of living.

    IF there is reincarnation, I want next to come back when the world is at peace, and has electricity on every continent going to every mansion, house and hut, from one or two very large fusion reactors per continent. That, plus clean air and water, of course. They will all three be considered basic human entitlements, as they should be. Looking forward to it!

  9. Angie, you are right, "[y]our state doesn't NEED to be the nation's dump." But the key word is need. It is not clear what need you mean. If it is financial need, I would think again.

    The work has been done to show this would be a safe operation like the repository that has been operating for more than 12 years in New Mexico. It is a safe operation, and it is being run by the same government agency so (unfairly) vilified in your state.

    It would employ people for a very long time, for several generations, perhaps many would work there up to a hundred years. It would stabilize the local and regional economy for those same generations.

    And if properly planned and parlayed it would bring in ancillary industries that are as permanent as any industry can be. Certainly more permanent than "gaming," an industry which depends on huge numbers of people making surplus money, which is not current reality, nor is it a bright prospect for the future if some peoples' perverse dream of doing away with all unions comes true.

    But the US does not need to use your state as a dump for this material. It essentially has a volunteer state on its hands, one whose Governor, Susana Martinez, sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy saying come and do the science that shows us this is possible to do safely here, and then let's talk.

    Now there is a savvy public servant! She is looking out for the economic well being, as well as the safety, of her constituents! Maybe if you ever stopped electing old men totally in thrall to their big donors to the Governor's mansion, you could have a savvy Governor too and diversify and grow your economy?

    You know that Nevada has a problem funding schools. It appears to outsiders that the state is just not that into education. Perhaps that has a lot to do with the nature of your dominant industry, which does not want its taxes raised for something as silly as education? They need all their earnings to be able to build new gaming palaces all over the world. The heck with bringing tourists to Nevada, let's build new palaces where the people still have some money! Nevada gaming is at least in a non-growth mode, it may actually be in a permanent decline.

    Like a 'problem gambler,' Nevada keeps rolling all its future hopes into repeated bets on the same economic engine that has been failing them for years now. Get help!

  10. Abraham again thank you for your post. As I have said I think we are missing the boat on clean energy. Until the disaster in Japan, Europe was gung ho for nuclear power. Merkel has made a knee-jerk decision and now Germany is importing energy instead of exporting it.

  11. Enjoyed the editorial.

    It just laid out the compelling reasons why Representative Amodei will be absolutely crushed by votes and smacked out of power the next election.

    As a reminder, when Rep. Amodei ran for this Congressional Seat, the VERY FIRST campaign ad he ran on television was Chinese troops marching all over the U.S. (something like that) in order to fearmonger for votes.

    You want to listen to his nuttiness which is only thrown out there not only for political gain, but also to amass wealth?

    We are way past the talk of Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) happening.

    Our focus is to vote out every Nevada politician who wants YMP to happen. Because the overwhelming majority of people here in Southern Nevada DO NOT WANT IT. And they have never wanted it.

    Politicians need to fully understand this talk of bringing YMP back on the table and hoping it is eventually funded again will achieve nothing but their instantaneous death knell politically.

    They need to understand this is the same as touching the third rail. They will evaporate and disappear from politics forever.

    This is not conjecture. This is indeed a fact.

    You're done for, Representative Amodei. You just committed political suicide.

    You were put into office to represent constituents. You clearly aren't doing that. They are running away from you in droves now. You blew it. Suffer the consequences.

  12. Colin; Amodei (unfortunately), IS SUPPORTING HIS CONSTITUENTS. The same cow county teabaggers that blessed us with Sharron Angle will vote for Amodei in 2012. He will win. We need to focus on Norquist drone and dump supporter Joe Heck in district 3. He is already advertising on television for his reelection. John Oceguera is ALLEGEDLY running against him, but has been as silent as a cigar store Indian.

  13. Totally agree with you, ressince73.

    I think if there is a better Democratic Party candidate next time, Amodei can be beat. I really think the reason he won was because his opponent went conservative, almost nutball. And that didn't help her. Besides the fact she liked to shout all the time. If she had stuck to her beliefs and not catered to the right wingers, Amodei would have not got the nod.

    Who knows though....