Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put a national spotlight on Nevada's signature issue Wednesday, holding a discussion on Yucca Mountain before a full contingent of national media.
"When I am president, Yucca Mountain will be off the table forever," Clinton said.
The New York senator said the proposed nuclear waste repository, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, was a national issue, because spent fuel rods would be transported through many states. She criticized the Bush administration for continuing the project despite botched science.
"This is not just, 'We're in Nevada, so we'll talk about an issue Nevadans care about,' " she said. "This is an American issue."
Las Vegas-based transportation consultant Fred Dilger called Nevada just "the point of the spear." The waste would arrive in 10,000 shipments, many of them going through major cities like Chicago and Atlanta, Dilger said.
As the trains go through Las Vegas, "All of the casinos on the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard would be bathed in gamma radiation."
Railway accidents could have tragic consequences, or terrorists could target the shipments, Dilger said. "We will have solved the terrorists' problem for them if we implement this."
Clinton agreed, saying terrorists who want to detonate a "dirty bomb" in America no longer would have to find radioactive material and smuggle it into the country, as it would already be here and difficult to protect.
Clinton called the Yucca project part of a broader problem, saying, "The Bush administration has conducted a war on science across the board."
Saying the Energy Department is proceeding with submitting an application despite not having a finalized radiation standard, Clinton said, "If that doesn't make sense to you, that's because it doesn't make sense."
All the Democratic candidates for president have said they will stop Yucca Mountain; no Republican other than Rep. Ron Paul has ruled it out.
Yucca Mountain wasn't initiated by the Bush administration. The project proceeded while Bill Clinton was president.
When asked how both Clintons could claim to be consistent foes of the dump, the campaign released a statement saying: "President Clinton's veto blocked a Republican congressional mandate to begin storing waste at Yucca Mountain. His veto prevented a rush to judgment about Yucca Mountain."
Jabs at Clinton's rivals were part of Wednesday's conversation. Former Nevada Rep. Jim Bilbray was referring to Democratic candidate John Edwards when he said, "Some other people are telling you they've had an awakening. 'Yes, I voted for Yucca Mountain twice, but now I see it was wrong.' Senator Clinton didn't have to have an epiphany."
Edwards has said he changed his mind based on Yucca revelations after he left the Senate.
Clinton also took a potshot at Barack Obama when she said a president must be both a chief executive and a chief operating officer. Obama said recently he considers himself more visionary than bureaucrat.
"George Bush assured us he could run the government by surrounding himself with the best people, and look what happened," Clinton said. "Government by adviser just doesn't work."
Obama responded to a similar jab at Tuesday's debate. He said the Bush administration's problems could be traced to more serious problems, such as a lack of tolerance for dissent.
About 150 locals were at Wednesday's discussion.
Rick Van Diepen of the anti-nuclear group Citizen Alert voiced his view that nuclear energy isn't a good idea, partly because of the waste issue.
Clinton said, "I could not agree with you more," although she has said she would consider future expansion of nuclear power if problems including waste disposal were solved. She said she has put forth an energy plan that doesn't include more nuclear power.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2919.