BEATTY — Bob Revert is the kind of guy who knows firsthand that the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Las Vegas aren’t as exhilarating as watching a nuclear blast near here.
The 65-year-old knows that Britney Spears radiated freakishness after shaving her head, but that isn’t half as freaky as seeing a cow gone bald from radiation.
And when it comes to off-road driving, Death Valley National Park might seem like rugged desert to some four-wheel drivers, he says, but it doesn’t compare with the eeriness of driving around the crater-scarred Nevada Test Site after a nuclear detonation.
"Grow up in Beatty, you know the power of nuclear," the former truck driver at the test site says as he sips coffee at the Ensenada Grill. "It’s really not bad if you’re careful."
Yucca Mountain, Revert says, is a huge issue in this town of 1,600 as presidential caucuses near. Many people, he says, think that the proposed repository for high-level nuclear waste, only 10 miles from town at the edge of the test site, can be safe and help Beatty with jobs now that mining here has largely petered out.
Revert, a Democrat, isn’t disturbed that Democrats running for president have all said Yucca Mountain won’t be activated as a nuclear repository when they take the White House.
"It’s gone too far to be stopped," says Revert, a tire store owner and former Nye County commissioner. "It’ll help Beatty grow."
Revert has lived his entire life in the town, which touts itself as the "Gateway to Death Valley." His 42-year-old daughter, Joanie, has served on the town board and as president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Both plan to caucus for John Edwards. They think he has the toughness to end the war in Iraq and to fight for the middle class. Joanie Revert also wants him to place more doctors in rural towns.
"We’ll be without a doctor soon," she says. "That’s scary."
She’s less favorably disposed to Yucca Mountain than her father. "Who needs the danger?" she asks.
But she also thinks the project is inevitable. "Billions of dollars have been spent," she says.
Bob Revert says researchers have learned much since he and other Beatty residents would get up at night in the 1950s and 1960s to watch above-ground nuclear tests held 30 miles away at the test site. "The light was brighter than the sun," he says.
He knows nuclear power can be dangerous. A friend, a downwinder, lost a child to cancer after a fallout cloud passed over his ranch. Bob Revert, who says he is in good health, also saw how the fallout stripped a friend’s cattle of their hair.
"The government was lax in precautions before," he says. "But today everything can be safely contained at Yucca. The government has learned as it goes along. But we should spend time learning what to do in case something goes wrong."Interactive Map Slideshow Wednesday, Day 4: Goldfield, Tonopah, Mina Thursday, Day 5: Hawthorne, Schurz, Fallon Friday, Day 6: Imlay, Winnemucca, Mcdermitt