AMARGOSA VALLEY — Even on a misty, overcast day, Yucca Mountain is visible from the Ponderosa Dairy Farm.
The squat, brown land mass 18 miles from here, where 45 percent of Nevada’s milk is produced, resembles muscle more than mountain as it punches through low clouds that remain draped around most of the formation.
Called "The Most Studied Real Estate on the Planet" by politicians who support its use as the nation’s permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste, Yucca Mountain never fails to gain the attention of dairy farm manager Ed Goedhart.
Given the farm’s nearness to Yucca Mountain, it’s not surprising that Goedhart is one of the Nevada’s most vocal opponents of the project.
"If there is even a perception that our milk is tainted by nuclear waste, that the water drunk by our cows is contaminated by radiation, no one is going to want our milk," Goedhart says as he watches cows feed in the foreground of the mountain. "Perception becomes reality."
It might be surprising that Goedhart, who ran successfully in 2006 as a Republican for the District 36 seat in the Nevada Assembly, is supporting Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president.
Romney, like all Republicans running other than Congressman Ron Paul, supports Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste disposal site.
"I’m not a single-issue voter," Goedhart says. "Romney is a good business and social conservative, and it’s been apparent over the years that a president can’t get Yucca into operation by himself. Bush hasn’t been able to do it. I don’t think Yucca Mountain will ever go into operation."
The threat of water contamination suggested by some independent researchers will win out over the "trust us" assurances of government scientists, Goedhart says.
"You have to remember the government said workers wouldn’t be harmed by radiation at the Nevada Test Site, and now the government has to pay many of the workers compensation," Goedhart says. "The government doesn’t have a good track record on these things. They told soldiers in Vietnam Agent Orange wouldn’t hurt them either."
In a few days, Goedhart will participate in caucuses for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whom he calls "a strong leader."
"I don’t think he’ll be strong enough, though, to make Yucca Mountain a reality when he’s president," Goedhart says.Interactive Map Audio Slideshow Wednesday, Day 4: Goldfield, Tonopah, Mina Thursday, Day 5: Hawthorne, Schurz, Fallon Friday, Day 6: Imlay, Winnemucca, Mcdermitt