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Barack Obama explains Yucca Mountain stance

To the editor:

In response to Erin Neff’s Tuesday column, "Obama and Yucca":

I want every Nevadan to know that I have always opposed using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, and I want to explain the many reasons why I’ve held that view.

In my state of Illinois, we have faced our own issues of nuclear waste management. There are some who believe that Illinois should serve as a repository for nuclear waste from other states. My view on this subject was made clear in a 2006 letter to Sen. Pete Domenici, who at the time was chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. "States should not be unfairly burdened with waste from other states," I wrote. "Every state should be afforded the opportunity to chart a course that addresses its own interim waste storage in a manner that makes sense for that state."

That is a position I hold to this day when it comes to both Illinois and Nevada.

After spending billions of dollars on the Yucca Mountain Project, there are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there. I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, or at a designated facility in the state where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term disposal solution that is based on sound science.

In the meantime, I believe all spending on Yucca Mountain should be redirected to other uses, such as improving the safety and security of spent fuel at plant sites around the country and exploring other long-term disposal options.

There is no doubt that this is a difficult issue. But I believe our approach must be based on sound science above all else. I do not do the bidding of any special interest or industry, including the nuclear industry, which has a major presence in my state.

In my own campaign, I have not accepted donations from political action committees or Washington lobbyists. In fact, I’ve often taken positions at odds with special interests. When I learned that radioactive tritium had leaked out of an Exelon nuclear plant in Illinois, I led an effort in the Senate to require utilities to notify the public of any unplanned release of radioactive substances.

All Nevadans should know that as president, I will bring to this issue not just independent judgment and careful deliberation, but a personal appreciation that comes from my own experience of living in the back yard of hazardous nuclear materials. The safety and security of Nevadans and all Americans requires nothing less.

Barack Obama



The writer represents Illinois in the U.S. Senate and is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

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