Air Force chief objects to Yucca Mountain nuclear routes

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sees a need to protect the space frontier and envisions bolstering the ranks of drone warfare all while preserving the vast Southern Nevada range that shrinks as fighter jets zip faster across it.

What she doesn’t see in her crystal ball is a nuclear-waste train rolling across the 2.9-million-acre Nevada Test and Training Range to reach the Department of Energy’s planned repository at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“If Yucca Mountain becomes a storage area it needs to operate without impacting the ability of the country to defend itself,” Wilson said Friday in an exclusive interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There is no route across the range that would not impact testing and training.”

Even a rail corridor that closely parallels the range’s boundary in Nye County could raise encroachment issues, she said, comparing what Nellis Air Force Base has dealt with balancing jet noise complaints and national security as urban Las Vegas sprawled closer to it over the decades.

“We do night operations. We train people to go to war,” she said after wrapping up her first visit as secretary of the Air Force to the Nellis and Creech bases.

If the Trump administration follows through with its blueprint to restart the Yucca Mountain Project that was dormant and funding-starved during the Obama administration, she will stay the course previously posed by the Air Force.

“I don’t think my concerns are any different than what has already been expressed by my predecessors. … We still have a very high need to be able to use the Nellis training area for both training and tests,” she said.

In 2003, Air Force Secretary James Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper wrote the House Armed Services Committee objecting to the Energy Department’s proposed Chalk Mountain route across the range. They said it would impact “mission-critical systems evaluations” as well as air combat training. They noted that 75 percent of all Air Force live munitions stateside are employed there.

Roving the range

The range’s role in testing of how new generation aircraft perform and can be detected or not by radar is also vital to the readiness.

Roche and Jumper also expressed concern for the fringe of the range citing “any modified routes into portions of the NTTR (Nevada Test and Training Range). Additionally, any overflight restrictions on aircraft operating in NTTR-associated airspace will negatively impact our readiness activities.”

The Chalk Mountain route, a short-cut option for rail shipments of spent nuclear fuel assemblies from the Midwest and eastern U.S., was later downgraded to “nonpreferred” by the Energy Department but is still part of the routes evaluated for the license application submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2008.

Wilson’s four-day trip included a helicopter journey through part of the 12,000 square miles of restricted air space — the largest contiguous air-and-ground space for military training in the free world.

Despite its size, the Air Force wants to expand it because it has shrunk relative to its purpose as military jets have gotten faster and faster. The F-22 Raptor supercruiser, for example, can zip across it in seven minutes, flying at roughly 17 miles per minute.

Wilson, a 56-year-old U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, Rhodes scholar and former Republican Congress member from New Mexico, spoke on a wide range of topics from Yucca Mountain to performance of new Block-5 remotely piloted Reapers at Creech Air Force Base to issues with F-35 joint strike fighter jets to her call for a larger cadre of airmen devoted to protection and use of space and cyberspace.

She oversees 660,000 active-duty, National Guard and reserve airmen and a budget of $132 billion.

On the space frontier

In June, she wrote that “the Air Force and the nation are at a critical crossroads” when it comes to “getting space operations right.”

While calling for a 20 percent space funding increase, she told a House Armed Services subcommittee along with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein that a new “space corps” service branch is not warranted because it would only create another layer of bureaucracy and “the Pentagon is complicated enough.”

On Friday, she said the Air Force is “the institution in the federal government that has taken the threat to space more seriously.”

The Air Force has dominated space not just for war fighters but also for “individuals, business and industry” who depend on the global positioning satellite system operated by a squadron of airmen in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who “run GPS for a billion people every day.”

“The space domain until recent years was always considered benign. We had the high ground, you could look from there, communicate there, navigate from there,” she said. “It’s no longer benign and our adversaries know we are more dependent upon space than they are and they are preparing capabilities to deny us access to space and deny us use of space.

“We have to prepare for that,” she said.

She wouldn’t elaborate what methods are being explored to protect space assets but said the Air Force stood up “an experiment” in the last 18 months that’s now the National Space Defense Center in Colorado.

“We have come up with a common operating picture to see what’s going on in space instead of just kind of cataloging things,” she said. “If somebody moves, we need to know why, what they’re getting close to and then have the ability to do something about it. “

Wilson said development of techniques and strategies to protect space assets is “a very high priority.”

She said infrared sensors operated by the Air Force from space are used to detect North Korea missile tests “and we calculate not only that there has been a launch, but where that launch is headed, how fast it’s going, what angle it’s going at and within minutes we communicate that information to people on the ground so they can make decisions. That’s pretty amazing.”

Since 80 percent of U.S. space operations are conducted by the Air Force, she also serves as principal adviser to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for the military space endeavors that include special Navy systems and a few from the Army. Even timing signals for automated teller machines and the New York Stock Exchange come from Air Force space operations, she noted.

Ready for combat

Wilson said the F-35 joint strike fighter jets “are ready for combat. If we went to war tonight the F-35s would go.”

Meanwhile, pilots continue to develop capabilities for the pricey stealth fighter jet in Red Flag air combat exercises while engineers and scientists troubleshoot a problem that surfaced last month with oxygen systems in some F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

She said the problem is being probed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio with simulators and data from the affected aircraft. “We will fly those profiles and see if we can replicate the problem and then fix it.”

New Block-5 Reaper drones being flown overseas via satellite links by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, completed their first combat sorties in June.

Wilson said a new “dwell time” goal under a “get well” policy has been welcomed by remotely piloted air crews who were stressed out by continuous missions in the war on terrorism, first from flying Predators armed with laser-guided missiles and now Reapers that can fire missiles and make precision air strikes with bombs.

“As we brought on these aircraft, the demand for them just went through the roof,” she said.

The “surge for the fight hurt our readiness” when ISIS became an adversary in 2014, she said. “We’ve been increasing numbers of people to get to a dwell time. It’s not perfect yet. It’s not the goal yet but it’s getting better. … I would say we’ve got a ways to go, but I was very pleased at what I saw at Creech and the commitment there.”

Contact Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter.

Yucca Mountain rail routes
Las Vegas Review-Journal

ad-high_impact_4
News
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Search for missing 3-year-old boy at Sunset Park
Las Vegas police and Red Rock Search and Rescue team search for a missing child at Sunset Park in southeast Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept.2, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks at Las Vegas tech conference
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan after advocating for girls' education, spoke at VMworld 2018 at Mandalay Bay. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father recalls the night his 14-year-old son died jumping into moving traffic
From the Clark County Detention Center, Ezequiel Anorve Serrano talks about the night his 14-year-old son, Silas Anorve, died jumping into moving traffic on U.S. 95. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Palace Station unveils new sports book
Palace Station talks about the new sports book Thursday, August 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
One of world's longest racetracks planned in Pahrump by 2020
The racetrack will be 16 miles long by the year 2020 according to Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club owner John Morris. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Robotics takes off at Las Vegas Academy
Las Vegas Academy’s robotics team made it all the way to the world competition last year, the first year the team competed. Zackary Perry describes how they programmed their robot to compete. The team is an example of what Tesla wants to have in every school in the state. (Meghin Delaney/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Politics
Michael Ramirez Joins The Review-Journal Team
Pulitzer prize winning political cartoonist Michael Ramirez talks about joining the Review-Journal and how he started his career.
Nevada Politics Today: Danny Tarkanian
The federal government should create a high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Susie Lee, the Democrat running for Congressional District 3 is against ICE. She’s also ducking debates, despite once challenging her opponent to debate her. That’s according to Danny Tarkanian, the Republican nominee for CD3.
Nevada Politics Today: Danny Tarkanian
The federal government should create a high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Susie Lee, the Democrat running for Congressional District 3 is against ICE. She’s also ducking debates, despite once challenging her opponent to debate her. That’s according to Danny Tarkanian, the Republican nominee for CD3.
Vice President Mike Pence visits Nellis Air Force Base
During his second visit to Nevada, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to airmen inside a Nellis Air Force Base hangar and spent the afternoon campaigning for GOP Sen. Dean Heller and gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt.
Nevada Politics Today: Karen Wayland
Nevada Politics Today: Asm. Jim Marchant
Asm. Marchant talks about education, voter integrity and running for leadership Nevada should increase funding for Career and Technical Education, but shouldn’t automatically register voters at the DMV. Assembly Republicans will also oppose tax increases next legislative session. That’s according to Assemblyman Jim Marchant.
Nevada Politics Today: Asm. Pickard talks about taking on LVCVA, taxes and Read by 3
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter shouldn’t get a “golden parachute.” Tax increases aren’t necessary, but if politicians want an increase they should send it to voters. Read by Three needs a chance to work, even if it holds back thousands of third graders. That’s according to Senate district 20 candidate and Assemblyman Keith Pickard.
The Right Take: Long-time, high-ranking employee sues CCSD
Start with who filed it. Goldman has worked for the district for 38 years, including 20 years as its chief negotiator. Next, move on to who he’s suing. That list includes the district, former-superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and two board members.
Nevada Politics Today: Nevada School Choice Coalition
Minority parents in Nevada strongly support school choice, and elected officials are taking notice. School choice is also a way to help modernize education. That’s according to Valeria Gurr, director of Nevada School Choice Coalition.
Nevada Politics Today: Jammal Lemy
The call by March for Our Lives to ban semi-automatic assault weapons is a conversation starter, not a defined policy proposal. The country needs to talk about finding ways to end gun violence, but the NRA has blood on its hands for opposing gun-control legislation. That’s according to March for Our Lives creative director Jammal Lemy.
The Right Take: Why is CCSD out of money?
Nevada’s education establishment hopes you’re bad at history. Otherwise, you’ll identify what’s missing in its push for more funding.
Nevada Politics Today: Thomas Jipping
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks talks with Senior legal fellow at Heritage Foundation, Thomas Jipping.
The Right Take: Clark County residents love illegal fireworks
If you were here last Wednesday, you saw, heard or felt some of the tens of thousands of illegal fireworks set off in the Vegas Valley.
Heller speaks during an interview with the RJ
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., speaks during an interview with the Las Vegas-Review-Journal
Nevada Politics Today: Hardeep “Dee” Sull
Nevada Politics Today video host Victor Joecks sits down with Hardeep Sull to discuss immigration and the border wall.
The Right Take: Teachers can leave union from July 1-15
Nevada is a right-to-work state so teachers don’t have to join the Clark County Education Association. If they do join, however, they can only leave by submitting written notice to the union between July 1 and 15. Support staffers and education employees throughout Nevada have the same opt-out window.
Donald Trump Speaks At The Nevada Republican Party State Convention
President Donald Trump speaks at the Nevada Republican Party State Convention at the Suncoast Station.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like