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Ten minutes with John McCain

After taking a shot at Sen. Barack Obama for “having no plan” during an interview last week, Sen. John McCain clearly showed he should have pointed the criticism inward.

McCain was in town to raise money this past Wednesday, but he included an energy speech at UNLV and a quick chat with supporters at his new office in Henderson.

In a 10-minute interview dominated by discussion of the Yucca Mountain Project, the presumptive Republican nominee showed he’s learned a lot in all those years as a nuclear dump proponent.

The problem: He’s incapable of evolving on the subject. His environmental plan, if you want to call it that, calls for new coal, gas and nuclear plants and — apparently — paying the Russians to reprocess the radioactive waste.

“We’re going to build power plants in America, they’re going to be coal-fired or natural gas or nuclear,” McCain said. “Right now clean coal is not where we want it to be,” he added. “To say that I’m not going to do nuclear power because we can’t solve the waste problem when the French are doing it is a mistake.”

But McCain doesn’t really solve the nuclear waste problem. He boasts about his call to spend more money on scientific research into alternative energies, yet doesn’t want to stray from the tried-and-true “dump it in Nevada” policy.

He supports reprocessing, but he isn’t keen on doing that at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“My understanding is that the first priority for Yucca Mountain, if it ever opened — and it’s not clear whether it will ever meet the environmental requirements that it’s going through both in and out of court — that it would be the defense nuclear fuel that would have the first priority,” McCain said. “So what do you do with all the spent nuclear fuel that’s sitting at nuclear power plants all over America? Wait 15, 20 years?” he asked.

Under a McCain administration, assuming the Department of Energy won its licensing fight and court battles with Nevada, Yucca Mountain would be the default plan.

If you believe McCain’s assumption about the piles of civilian waste around the country, it wouldn’t be sufficient. But McCain had no additional information about the reprocessing plan he calls central to both global warming and nuclear proliferation.

The Russians would have to work with the French, and then McCain said he’d have to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who floated the idea to him, to figure out how much we’re going to pay to export our garbage.

What a win-win.

“Nuclear power plants are a vital part of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “(To) people who are against nuclear power, what about what can give our children a damaged planet? That is greenhouse gas emissions. You’ve got to have nuclear power if you’re going to address greenhouse gas emissions.”

So his entire plan involves a handshake with Putin and then hands off.

I asked McCain about sports betting and Internet gaming, and whether any Nevada Republicans or gaming industry representatives had approached him about those issues.

“The issue of college betting is not going anywhere. … The sports betting thing, that was over years ago,” he added. “I’ve faced reality. It’s just like with immigration reform. Americans want a secure border.”

On Internet gaming, McCain was just off his game. First he tried to back away from his position because he hasn’t been involved in it lately. Then he said it was really fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl’s deal.

Then he tried to find a Nevada-friendly stance. “The economy is what’s hurting the gaming industry in Las Vegas today,” McCain said. “It isn’t sports betting or Internet gaming.”

Yes, but if the gaming industry could make money online, it could help the bottom line when tourists balk at spending thousands to fly here or hundreds to drive here.

“Let me get back to you on it,” he said. “I haven’t thought about the issue.”

He did say he had concerns about Internet gaming originating in foreign countries. Of course, this happens because of U.S. policy and restrictions, but never mind.

McCain also spoke about oversight and making sure the kiddies don’t have access.

“I’ll call you back,” he added.

Could the position be evolving like so many of his others? We’ll have to wait and see just how much Nevada is in play, as the election grows nearer.

We know McCain will be back. Maybe he’ll have an Internet gaming proposal by then. For the sake of the gaming industry, we’d better hope it’s not as deeply thought out as his energy plan.

Then again, maybe the gamers wouldn’t mind if offshore meant the Caspian Sea.

As for him calling back, I’ll be waiting.

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

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