RENO -- Backers of a broad proposal to expand a nuclear-waste dump site in Nevada criticized the Obama administration Thursday for paying lip service to the nuclear industry while ignoring the need for radioactive waste storage.
The 75 protesters outside President Barack Obama's town hall meeting in Reno included more than a dozen members of a nonpartisan group promoting the Yucca Mountain facility. They waved signs that read, "Open Yucca Nevada Energy Park."
"We wanted to let him know there are Nevadans who are in favor of utilizing the Yucca Mountain facility for good purposes," said Randy York, a member of Nevadans 4 Carbon Free Energy. "Many people say out of one side of their mouth they are in favor of nuclear energy, but you never are going to see it ramp up until we solve the storage problem."
The Obama administration has stopped plans to bury the nation's nuclear waste in the Nevada site, which is about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Several states, including South Carolina and Washington, are suing to try to restart plans to ship their radioactive spent-nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain.
Nevada's congressional delegation has fought against the project for years, and polls have shown most Nevadans share their opposition to the long-term repository.
The pro-Yucca protesters say the site, if turned into the energy park, could generate $4 billion in potential revenue that could be shared with residents in dividends, similar to the way Alaska shares its oil pipeline money. Nevadans 4 Carbon Free Energy wants the proposed energy park to include a recycling and research center, reprocessing of the fuels and generation of new power, as well as the spent-fuels storage site.
York said he is supportive of Obama's push to develop "green" renewable energy, but that the president's vision was "only one part of the puzzle."
The pro-Yucca protesters were among those outside Obama's town hall who criticized his economic and foreign policies, energy plans and the federal health care overhaul.
Others included the jobless in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Corey Lequieu, 41, of Fallon, said he'd been unemployed for two years. He was an Army veteran who worked in restaurant management and nursing, but said now he can only find part-time jobs.
Katie Fortuna, president of the University of Nevada College Republicans, said Obama promised to create jobs when he visited her Reno campus during his campaign four years ago.
"We're offended that President Obama would come back to the state with the highest unemployment in the country to campaign. He doesn't care about our jobs; he cares about his job," she said.