Newspaper column: How to make use of those Yucca Mountain tunnels

Obama and Reid tour Nellis AFB solar panel site. (R-J pix)

Sometimes things just naturally come full circle.

For decades Nevada’s former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid constantly pounded on two themes: Blocking nuclear waste from being stored in Yucca Mountain in Nye County and pressing for more and more solar panels to be thrown up on thousands of acres of public land and on rooftops across the state.

When Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the nation’s sole nuclear waste dump in 1987, Reid said two things, no and hell no. As he rose in seniority in the Democratic Party to become Senate majority leader, he finally found the power to make those words stick and steadily turned down the funding spigot for the project until President Obama shut it down entirely.

As he neared retirement, Reid declared Yucca Mountain dead, though President Trump and his Energy Secretary Rick Perry have been trying to breathe life back into it.

Meanwhile, Reid campaigned vigorously for green energy, bragging about his role in the state investing $6 billion in green energy and creating 20,000 jobs. The projects include sites such as the 3,000-acre Copper Mountain Solar project outside Boulder City and the 15-megawatt solar panel installation on Nellis Air Force Base.

Almost every year at his long-running green energy conference in Las Vegas, Reid would drag out some dignitary from the base to repeat the boast that the project was saving taxpayers $1 million a year in power costs — without ever bothering to mention the panels cost $100 million in 2007 and would reach obsolescence in 25 years and need to be disposed of.

Which brings us to the closing of the circle.

An alert reader recently brought to our attention a report from a Berkeley-based group called Environmental Progress. It seems that when you do the math, solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy output than nuclear power plants.

This prompted our alert reader to suggest it is time to contemplate the Yucca Mountain Solar Panel Repository.

“We talk a lot about the dangers of nuclear waste, but that waste is carefully monitored, regulated, and disposed of,” Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress, an advocate for nuclear energy, told the National Review. “But we had no idea there would be so many panels — an enormous amount — that could cause this much ecological damage.”

The Environmental Progress report states, “If solar and nuclear produce the same amount of electricity over the next 25 years that nuclear produced in 2016, and the wastes are stacked on football fields, the nuclear waste would reach the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (52 meters), while the solar waste would reach the height of two Mt. Everests (16 km).”

Those innocent looking solar panels contain elements such as lead, chromium and cadmium — known carcinogens. The panels are difficult and expensive to recycle. The process is labor intensive and the price of the resulting scrap material is low, according to the National Review. (Never mind the toxic waste created during the manufacturing process.)

But, since they are already imbedded in glass and plastic and would not necessarily have to be protected by water shields like nuclear waste canisters if they were buried in those miles of tunnels at Yucca Mountain, it seems like a solution to the problem of what do with that $15 billion project sitting idle in the desert. The main problem is that it may not be big enough.

The United States has more than a million solar energy installations, many of which are nearing the end of that 25-year life expectancy, and more are being built, though currently solar produces only about 1.3 percent of the world’s electricity, compared to 10 percent for nuclear power.

As for the nuclear waste, we never thought it a good idea to dump it in a hole in the ground, when it can be recycled, as many countries currently do. It would be rather easy to haul the stuff to the desert at or near Yucca Mountain and store it above ground in dry casks until it can be recycled, possibly on site, which would create a number of high tech jobs.

Don’t you love it when mislaid plans come together?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Yucca Mountain entrance. (ABC pix)

Newspaper column: Nevada politicians balk at Trump’s budget

The Obama administration managed to increase the national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to nearly $20 trillion in 2016, meaning the cost of serving that debt has doubled and will rise as interest rates rise.

But when President Trump proposes a budget that would cut spending by $4.23 trillion over the next decade there is wailing and gnashing of teeth — including from the majority of Nevada politicians.

Much of the lamenting is over the budget’s proposal to carry out the House-passed modest rollback of Obamacare, specifically rolling back Medicaid eligibility. Previously, Medicaid covered low-income children, pregnant women and disabled, but largely excluded other low-income adults. Obamacare allowed just about anyone earning below 138 percent of the poverty level to become eligible.

Nevada was one of the 31 states to expand Medicaid eligibility since the federal government promised to initially pick up 100 percent of the increased cost and 90 percent in later years.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he intends to protect Medicaid funding “at all cost” — meaning your cost. The expansion has added 220,000 Nevadans to Medicaid.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller also said he is concerned about the budget’s cuts to Medicaid and its affect on Nevadans now covered by it.

Freshman Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined other senators in signing a letter to Trump bemoaning the proposed Medicaid cuts. She noted that more than 18,000 veterans in Nevada are covered by Medicaid. How many were previously covered or still would be after a rollback was not stated.

“Your proposed cuts to Medicaid and your efforts to take away people’s health coverage are inconsistent with the promises you made to America’s veterans. They deserve better,” the letter states.

Spending as well as cuts are drawing fire.

There is that $120 million in Trump’s budget to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain to become a nuclear waste storage site, a measure apparently opposed by a majority of state politicians.

This prompted Heller to say, “From slashing funding for important public lands programs to its renewed effort to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the President’s budget request contains several anti-Nevada provisions. While Congress ultimately has the power of the purse, I will continue to stand up for Nevada’s priorities by defending our important public lands programs and fighting any effort to turn Nevada into the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Yucca Mountain is dead …”

Rep. Dina Titus of Clark County fired off this missive: “President Trump wants to fund a revival of the failed Yucca Mountain boondoggle that will ultimately cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. Just as his budget overlooks the needs of the America people, Trump’s Yucca Mountain line item ignores the majority of Nevadans who don’t want this dangerous project rammed down their throats.”

On the other hand, Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen sent out a statement saying, “I am pleased that the just published fiscal 2018 budget submitted by President Donald Trump includes funding that will continue the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain Waste Repository in Nye County. The promise of a safe and secure site for nuclear waste has been promised to the nation for more than three decades.”

Time to negotiate for benefits?

Then there is the plan in the budget to save $10 million a year by finally following the provisions of the original 1970s act to protect wild horses by allowing excess animals to be sold for slaughter instead of being warehoused at taxpayer expense.

The wild horse management budget has doubled under Obama to more than $80 million a year. The usual suspects decry this trim.

Few seem willing to throttle back on the government largesse, even though the economy has picked up a bit since the depths of the recession and unemployment has fallen from October 2009’s 10 percent peak to 4.7 percent.

Trump’s budget proposes to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and trim $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs — all of which have increased in recent years.

Medicaid enrollment has grown by 47 percent since 2006 and spending by 75 percent — to $554 billion in 2015. Food stamp recipients have increased by 11 million.

Trump’s budget is 55 percent larger than 2007’s, though inflation has been 20 percent.

As Ronald Reagan once remarked, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Yucca Mountain (CBS pix)

 

Bill would revive licensing of Yucca Mountain for nuke waste storage

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman threatened to lie down on the tracks to block any rail shipment of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. “We’re going to do whatever it takes, even if we have to lie down in front of the tracks,” Goodman said.

We hear the train acomin’.

This morning four of Nevada’s Washington delegation members testified during an hours-long hearing on draft legislation that would restart the Yucca Mountain licensing for storage spent nuclear fuel. They all testified against it.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on the environment took no vote on the draft Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, but a number of subcommittee members from states with nuclear power plants seemed more than willing to ship nuke waste to Nevada.

Yucca Mountain entrance (AP pix)

Sen. Dean Heller testified, “Rather than attempting to force this project on the people of Nevada – a state that currently does not have any nuclear power plants of its own – it is clear taxpayers’ dollars would be better spent identifying viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen — who presents Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located — called the project a threat to Las Vegas tourism, even though the bill says every effort would be made to avoid shipping the waste through Las Vegas. He added, “Many of you may not know it, but the area around Yucca Mountain is seismically active, and an aquifer runs beneath the proposed repository site. Additionally, placing a large amount of nuclear waste in an unsuitable site like Yucca Mountain could lead to numerous potential health issues. Substandard care or the mere passage of time could lead to leaking and leaching of nuclear material into the aquifer.”

Las Vegas Reps. Dina Titus and Jackie Rosen also testified against the bill.

Despite concerns about shipping, one of the expert witnesses said there have been 5,000 nuke waste shipments without a single incident.

A Texas representative said the amount waste — 70,000 metric tons — is not so large, just the size of a football field stacked 10 feet high or enough to fill two congressional hearing rooms.

But the Nye County Commission had entered into the record a letter supporting Yucca Mountain:

The legislation, which would strengthen the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, addresses many of the concerns brought forth by the state and Nevada’s federal lawmakers, including a provision that specifically says that the waste shall avoid moving through Las Vegas.

Another change for Nevada is the acceptance of benefits, including funding and participation in mitigation discussions, shall not be considered consent and the State can get benefits tied to hosting the nuclear repository. Under the existing law, when the State vetoed the repository it gave up its right to benefits.

The bill also allows Nevada to be the site of an interim storage facility, a change from the original Act.

Yucca Mountain, which is located in Nye County, was designated as the permanent nuclear waste disposal site by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982. Nuclear waste continues to be stored temporarily at various locations around the country while the promise of Yucca Mountain has been delayed too long by political science. To date, $15 billion has been spent to prepare the site to accept nuclear waste.

The Yucca Mountain nuclear repository would bring federal dollars to Nevada, create well-paying science and construction jobs, and improve the state’s infrastructure. The project would also strengthen national security, a role Nye County and Nevada has always taken the lead in through the past eight decades.

The bill includes a “benefits section” envisioning dollars that could flow to the state and the local communities, but the dollar amounts are left blank in the draft. “The acceptance or use of any of the benefits provided under a benefits agreement under this section by the State of Nevada shall not be considered to be an expression of consent, express or implied, to the siting of a repository in such State,” the draft states.

One states’ rights concern is that it removes Nevada’s right to deny water for the project.

But Nevadans should remember that lying down in front of a train greatly increases the chances of getting run over. The bill appears to open paths for negotiation of benefits the state and Nye County.

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Nevada could contribute to rebound of national defense

Nevada knows nukes, or at least we used to.

First, the election of Donald Trump reignited the debate over the possible resurrection of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. Now, with a simple tweet Trump has reopened discussions about the preparedness, or lack thereof, of America’s nuclear arsenal.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump’s 118-character missive declared this past week.

Nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

Nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

Trump’s newly appointed spokesman Sean Spicer went on television the next day and said the president-elect was not trying to restart an arms race with Russia and China but rather deter one.

“He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,” Spicer told NBC. “And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.”

This would be a sharp reversal of Obama’s avowed policy of avoiding nuclear proliferation. In 2009 he called for the U.S. to lead efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons — putting the Genie back in the bottle as some might say.

Between the U.S., Russia, China and a handful of other nations there are already enough nuclear weapons to make the rubble bounce, as we used to say, and enough to create a Nuclear Winter. (And Obama says the biggest threat to mankind is global warming.)

Nevada was ground zero for nuclear preparedness throughout the Cold War. On a 1,375-square-mile tract of land in Nye County known first as the Nevada Proving Grounds, then the Nevada Test Site and now the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), thousands of workers developed the nation’s nuclear deterrence capabilities by detonating more than 900 nuclear devices. A few workers there continue to experiment with subatomic tests.

With most of the nation’s nuclear arsenal sitting on the shelf for decades, NNSS would be the logical location for testing, refitting, overhauling, updating and replacing those weapons.

But Yucca Mountain and nearby Groom Lake, or Area 51 — where stealth aircraft and other top secret weaponry have been tested for decades — could also play a role.

Yucca Mountain (AP photo)

Yucca Mountain (AP photo)

Instead of dumping commercial nuclear reactor waste at Yucca Mountain, it could be reprocessed, as many other nations do.

But in 1977 Jimmy Carter banned reprocessing because it creates weapons-grade nuclear material and he feared a nuclear proliferation and potential for that material to be obtained by terrorists or a rogue state, which has never happened, though Great Britain, France, Japan and others routinely reprocess.

That weapons-grade material from reprocessing could be used to update the arsenal and the reprocessed fuel could power commercial nuclear reactors for years and drastically reduce the amount of waste.

The nation’s offensive and defensive efforts under Obama have lain fallow. The three Nevada sites could be employed to do more than merely deter sane nations with a policy of mutually assured destruction — appropriately summed up with the acronym MAD.

Research and development could be directed toward deploying reliable countermeasures against an ICBM attack from an orbit over the South Pole, which was not envisioned back in the day of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. And it need not be just anti-ballistic missile technology.

Little has been done in recent years to harden the nation’s electric grid and electronic technology against the disabling power of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that is generated by a nuclear weapon, which could leave the entire nation in the dark, without communications or operational vehicles. That could come from terrorists or one of those rogue dictatorships that have or are developing nuclear devices, not just Russia and China.

Research also needs to continue on electronic rail guns that could target incoming missiles, as well as EMP or laser or X-ray weapons that use a small nuclear detonation as a source of energy — ground- or space-based.

Nevada has the infrastructure in place already, though most of the worker expertise has moved on or died off. The state’s universities and the Desert Research Institute could be called upon to educate the necessary workforce, as well as the various nuclear labs around the country that have seen personnel laid off and budgets cut.

Nevada has long contributed to national defense, it could continue to do so.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper editorial suggests ‘fitting memorial’ for Reid

Yucca Mountain (AP file photo)

Yucca Mountain (AP file photo)

The editorialists at the Washington Examiner have come up with a fitting way to honor the three decades of service in the U.S. Senate by Nevada’s Harry Reid.

They note that Reid, with an assist from the Obama administration, has defied, circumvented and defeated the law as passed by Congress that would turn Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste repository — or suppository, as Chic Hecht called it. The 1987 law has been less than affectionately referred to as the Screw Nevada Act.

The editorial notes that utility companies with nuclear reactors have paid $21 billion to the Energy Department for the purpose of disposing of their waste, but Energy has failed to act.

“Its failure, due to political sabotage, is both dangerous and expensive,” the opinion piece relates. “The Yucca Mountain repository, in a deserted, uninhabitable section of Nevada, was supposed to begin taking in nuclear waste on New Year’s Day 1998, so that the material would not have to be stored in communities across the nation. Nineteen years and countless scientific studies later, Yucca is just a $15 billion hole in the ground, thanks mostly to ferocious opposition from the retiring Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid.”

It is estimated that by 2020  taxpayers could be on the hook for $50 billion in damages to the utility companies on top of the construction costs at Yucca Mountain.

The newspaper suggests Energy Department secretary nominee Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, has the persistence and drive to make the repository a reality, and “a fitting memorial for one of America’s most memorable legislative leaders. Taxpayers deserve no less than to see the Harry Reid Nuclear Waste Repository at Yucca Mountain become a reality, at long last.”

Cover of Jim Day book.

Cover of Jim Day book.

As originally envisioned, Yucca Mountain’s U-shaped shaft would have been filled with 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods, each covered by titanium and palladium drip shields to protect them from water seeping through the mountain. After 100 to 300 years the hole was to be sealed and pictographic warning signs erected. The material would still be hazardous for thousands of years.

Yucca Mountain: Dead or on life support?

Sen. Harry Reid met with a group of Review-Journal editorial staffers Wednesday and spouted his usual dismissal of the chances of Yucca Mountain ever opening as a nuclear waste repository.

Inside Yucca Mountain

“Yucca Mountain is gone. It’s not going to happen,” Reid said in the meeting. “Take drive up there. Look at it. All that billions of dollars in equipment. Where do you think that has gone? To the junk yard. That big multibillion-dollar auger they had it’s been junked, ground up for metal and shipped to China or wherever they send the metal. It’s closed. There’s not a chance in the world that anything is going to happen there.”

It was so routine for Reid that it did not warrant a mention in Thursday’s print edition story about the meeting. There was a brief video posted online and John L. Smith mentioned the issue in his column today, but that apparently did not warrant being posted online this morning. (The paper got around to posting the column at 8:47 a.m.)

Reid discusses Yucca Mountain (Screen grab from R-J video)

Reid discusses Yucca Mountain (Screen grab from R-J video)

Also on Thursday, according to today’s R-J, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a draft study that says Yucca Mountain would cause “only a negligible increase” in health risk from radioactive particles that might leak into groundwater.

The story quotes Rep. Joe Heck, who is running as a Republican for Reid’s Senate seat, as saying there is little Nevada can do to stop Yucca Mountain if authorities deem it safe for nuclear waste storage.

“If the federal government says it’s coming, its coming,” the R-J reports Heck said in a campaign interview Wednesday with the Nevada Appeal in Carson City.

A couple of Nevada delegates to D.C. have recently suggested that they are open to discussion of benefits for Nevada in exchange for opening Yucca Mountain.

The NRC draft study concludes:

The NRC staff finds that all of the impacts on the resources evaluated in this supplement would be SMALL. The NRC staff’s analysis includes the impact of potential radiological and nonradiological releases from the repository on the aquifer and at surface discharge locations of groundwater beyond the regulatory compliance location. The peak estimated annual individual radiological dose over the one-million-year period at any of the evaluated locations is 1.3 mrem [0.013 mSv]. This maximum dose is associated with pumping and irrigation at the Amargosa Farms area, and the estimated radiological dose at any other potential surface discharge location is lower. The NRC staff concludes that the estimated radiological doses are SMALL because they are a small fraction of the background radiation dose of 300 mrem/yr 22 [3.0 mSv/yr] (including radon), and much less than the NRC annual dose standards for a Yucca Mountain repository in 10 CFR Part 63 {15 mrem [0.15 mSv] for the first 10,000 years, and 100 mrem [1 mSv] for one million years, after permanent closure}. Based on conservative assumptions about the potential for health effects from exposure to low doses of radiation, the NRC staff expects that the estimated radiation dose would contribute only a negligible increase in the risk of cancer or severe hereditary effects in the potentially exposed population. Impacts to other resources at all of the affected environments beyond the regulatory compliance location from radiological and nonradiological material from the repository would also be SMALL. The cumulative impact analysis concludes that, when considered in addition to the incremental impacts of the proposed action, the potential impacts of other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions would be SMALL.

To store 77,000 metric tons of nuke waste would require 40 miles of tunnels.  Yucca Mountain already has seven miles of tunnel, along with numerous niches, alcoves and more than 180 boreholes in which various experiments and studies have been performed.

To add further finality to the safety of Yucca Mountain, the NRC even delves into the Obama administrations obsession with “environmental racism,” as outlined in an Investor’s Business Daily editorial today, which says federal agencies are blocking businesses and governments from locating potentially polluting operations inside or near populations of low-income or minority people.

The NRC draft uses the term “environmental justice” 32 times and has an entire section on this topic.

Five pages are devoted to this issue in the draft, but it includes:

DOE has identified no high and adverse potential impacts to members of the general public associated with exposure to contaminants that may occur in groundwater following closure of a repository at Yucca Mountain. Further, DOE has not identified subsections of the population, including minority or low-income populations that would receive disproportionate impacts. Likewise, DOE has identified no unique exposure pathways that would expose minority or low-income populations to disproportionately high and adverse impacts. The Department acknowledges the sensitivities and cultural practices of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe concerning the use and purity of springs in the [Furnace] Creek area; however, the information included in this Analysis of Postclosure Groundwater Impacts demonstrates that the potential concentrations of contaminants in those springs would be so low that there would be virtually no potential health effects associated with the use of those springs. Thus, this document supports the Department’s previous conclusion that no disproportionately high and adverse impacts would result from a repository.

How many of those temporary waste storage pools and dry casks are located nearer to large minority populations?

 

Newspaper column: Bill might give Nevada a seat at the nuke waste negotiating table

Two weeks ago Nevada’s Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller introduced Senate Bill 691, which, if passed, will require the Secretary of Energy to obtain the consent of any affected state and local governments before establishing a nuclear waste repository. The senators have dubbed it the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act.

Since Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the nation’s sole repository for high-level nuclear waste from nuclear reactors in 1987, billions of dollars in ratepayer money have been poured into the 5-mile hole in the ground in Nye County. It was supposed to be operational by 1998.

The 1987 law has been less than affectionately referred to as the Screw Nevada Act.

Most Nevada officials, notably Reid himself, have fought and railed against the “dump” site, challenging it legislatively, financially and legally, though of late several elected officials have expressed a willingness to negotiate in exchange for benefits to the state, such as jobs and highway improvements.

An informed consent to say no also includes an informed consent to yes, if the deal is in the best interest of those who must live with it. It is hard to negotiate the best deal, if there is no power or authority to say no.

The bill also dovetails with a 2012 report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The panel lists eight key elements of a new strategy for locating a nuclear waste repository, the first of which is: “A new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities.”

The commission noted that a majority of Nevada’s citizens strongly opposed the selection of Yucca Mountain as a repository site, though the project did have some support from residents closest to the site in Nye, Mineral and Lincoln counties.

Earlier this year when the bill was being drafted, Heller stated, “Our nation must find solutions to address spent nuclear fuel, but any potential waste repository should have the consent and support of the affected state and local communities. No state, including Nevada, should be forced to accept waste against its will. With no conceivable path to building Yucca Mountain, it’s time for Washington to admit the obvious: the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository is a figment of the federal government’s imagination.”

For his part Reid said the federal government has wasted billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain, despite the objections of Nevadans. “The Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act would ensure that no state’s voice may be silenced in the process of being considered for a nuclear waste repository. The game was rigged against Nevada when Congress gutted the original science-based siting process for a nuclear waste repository nearly three decades ago,” Reid said.

On the House side, Reps. Joe Heck and Dina Titus introduced a companion bill to the Senate version in March, H.R. 1364.

“The people of Nevada deserve to have a seat at the table in the nuclear waste storage conversation,” Heck has said.

Titus said no other state would stand for this kind of political targeting. “For far too long, supporters of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository have ignored the concerns of Nevada and its local communities,” she said.

But Nevada’s representatives whose constituents are closest to Yucca Mountain seem to be willing of late to discuss the possibility of using Yucca Mountain for temporary storage and research, if Nevada gets something for its trouble.

“I think Nevada needs to be in that discussion,” Rep. Cresent Hardy has said. “We need to be involved in it. I’ll never agree to have it shoved down our throats, but I think we need to be involved. If it’s got to come here, this is the best safety issue for it, then we need to be looking at the opportunities that we may have, if they’re there.”

Rep. Mark Amodei said the state’s leaders need to engage in a conversation instead of “just screaming, no.” He said money could go to reprocessing and monitoring research at UNLV and Desert Research Institute.

As originally envisioned, Yucca Mountain’s U-shaped shaft would have been filled with 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods, each covered by titanium and palladium drip shields to protect them from water seeping through the mountain. After 100 to 300 years the hole was to be sealed and pictographic warning signs erected. The material would still be hazardous for thousands of years.

Yucca Mountain (R-J photo)

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.