WASHINGTON — Workers at the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain Project in Las Vegas are being urged to launch an e-mail campaign aimed at saving their jobs in light of dwindling budgets threatened by Sen. Harry Reid and the Obama administration.
Fliers were placed on the windshields of cars and trucks at the project’s offices in Summerlin this week.
The fliers, which were not signed, called on workers to enlist their friends and family to write to President Barack Obama and top Nevada leaders, and stressed that de-funding the nuclear waste project “will have a significant adverse impact on the community as a whole.
“There is never a good time to be out of a job, but as you know now is certainly a very bad time,” they said. “This town cannot afford to lose 1,200 or so high paying jobs, the Summerlin area cannot absorb hundreds of additional houses on the market and the vacancy of tens of thousands of square feet of office space.”
The organizers of the e-mail campaign could not be discerned on Friday.
Spokesmen for the Department of Energy and Bechtel SAIC, the project’s managing contractor, said those entities were not involved in the effort.
Several workers said Friday the appeal was indicative of low morale and high anxiety among employees who have been caught in the undertow of the controversial project.
The Yucca workforce has been halved in the past three years, from about 2,750 to 1,400, according to DOE. About 1,120 work in Nevada, with most of the remainder in Washington.
But now the project is under pressure as never before, as the president has declared he is against it and an energized Reid has vowed to kill it outright. On Wednesday Reid, the Senate majority leader, disclosed that new legislation Congress is expected to pass in the coming weeks will reduce the Yucca budget to a record low of $288.4 million.
Lynne Norman, an administrative assistant on the Yucca project who lives in Summerlin, said Friday project workers are being made to feel like “second-class citizens,” and she feels betrayed by her home-state senator.
Nevada officials who have strategized against the Yucca project said they are sympathetic but the cause of killing the repository is bigger than the workers, who they said should not be surprised the end finally might be near. Reid on Jan. 14 declared, “Yucca Mountain is not a jobs program.”
Adding to the distress on the program is an upcoming management changeover, workers said, as Bechtel SAIC is ending an eight-year tenure as chief operations contractor.
Bechtel SAIC sent federally required layoff warnings to more than 600 workers Monday, reminding them they will no longer be employed as of March 31, when the company’s contract expires.
“Killing the dump is the right policy for Nevada and for America,” Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said in a joint statement Friday.
They said the federal Workforce Investment Act can provide retraining and other help for dislocated workers.
Keith Rogers of the Review-Journal contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia. com or 202-783-1760.