The never-ending Nuclear Projects Agency II

Here’s a response to my blog item of the same name a few posts down. Bruce Breslow, new executive director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, attempts to justify the continued existence of his agency. I’m not buying it. Yucca Mountain is dead, according to Harry Reid and President Obama. Reid promises that Yucca will have $0 dollars to spend in the next budget. Why we’d now need to spend millions fighting an entity that has no budget and no hope of opening (unless, of course, Reid and Obama are not telling the truth) seems as useful as buying a buggy-whip. Give the AG $500k and tell her to shovel the last bit of dirt on to the corpse that is the Yucca Mountain project. Use the rest to give state and federal taxpayers a break. Or use it to create jobs. Or help the poor. Ease the pain of the elderly. Jeez, anything but this.

But, maybe The Complete Las Vegan is a grouchy old Nevada conservative.

Because I’m fair-minded, here’s the opposing view. Let me know if you buy it.

Now is no time for Nevada to let up in Yucca fight

I feel compelled to respond to recent comments from Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick, who suggested in a recent column that Nevada should eliminate the state agency charged with combating the nuclear waste dump planned for Yucca Mountain.

As the new executive director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, I’m acutely aware of the state’s significant budget shortfall. Like every other state agency, we’re working closely with Gov. Gibbons and the Legislature to reduce our budget and account for every penny our office receives from federal and state sources.

Now is not the time to let up in our ongoing fight against this fatally flawed project. Yucca Mountain is located in a geologically active area characterized by highly porous rock, fast water pathways, highly corrosive groundwater, evidence of geologically recent volcanic activity, and numerous earthquake faults. You couldn’t have found a worse site if you tried.

For the first time in the three decades that Nevada has been opposing this project, we now have a president who agrees with Nevada and promises to pull the plug on the Yucca Mountain Project. We are fortunate that U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a leading opponent of the proposed nuclear waste dump, is now the Senate majority leader doing everything in his power to kill the project.

Now that we have the Department of Energy on the ropes, I agree with longtime Nevada leaders like Reid, Sen. John Ensign and former Sen. Richard Bryan – who was quoted in another local newspaper as saying “this is not the time to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

To make sure we bury this project forever, Nevada must make its case before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has begun the years-long process of considering DOE’s application to build the proposed repository. We must follow through and fund the state’s legal challenges against the faulty radiation standards suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And we must dedicate at least the basic resources we need to keep our state oversight agency operating long enough to see this thing through to the end.

Mr. Frederick and my fellow Nevadans should also understand that, while the agency currently has a budget of about $13 million for two years – not one year as Mr. Frederick suggested – about 75 percent of that comes from federal funds.

The federal funds cannot be used for some of the most crucial legal initiatives necessary if the Yucca project is to be defeated once and for all. So, we need every bit of the less than $2 million we devote each year to the state’s legal and licensing team that is helping us win this battle.

As for Mr. Frederick’s suggestion that we don’t need a budget if the nuclear waste dump is already dead, both our office and the office of the Attorney General will gladly return any unused funds allocated to opposing this project once Nevada wins a permanent victory.

The DOE and Yucca proponents have a very organized team that seeks to perpetuate a mythic folk tale that there are large benefits to be had if Nevada would only roll over and go along with the project. In fact, there are no benefits to be had, and Yucca is the worst place to permanently seal the nation’s most dangerous waste. Moreover, no responsible leader could possibly advocate that an exchange of money is an appropriate quid pro quo for the certain contamination that the repository would cause.

For years, statewide public opinion polls have shown that about three of every four Nevadans want the state to defeat the Yucca Mountain Project.

I’m confident this vast majority of Nevadans will agree that it would be foolish to throw in the towel just as we’re about to win this fight.

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