Nevada governor still optimistic about Yucca | SierraSun.com

Nevada governor still optimistic about Yucca

Despite a disappointing week in Washington and a survey illustrating a significant lack of support in the Senate, the Nevada Governor’s office remained optimistic this week it would still be able to stop the controversial Yucca Mountain project from dumping more than 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in the state.

“The senator poll that came out last weekend was really nothing new,” Gov. Kenny Guinn’s Press Secretary Greg Bortolin told the Sierra Sun. “We’ve known all along that this is going to be an uphill battle and we are prepared for it.”

In two months, both houses of Congress will vote on the issue of whether or not to override Gov. Guinn’s veto of President Bush’s recommendation to proceed with the project. A failure to override in either house kills Yucca Mountain.

But just how steep of an uphill battle is Nevada looking at?

A recent survey of senators by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows support of Yucca Mountain nearing the 51 votes needed to override Gov. Guinn’s veto of the project.

Of the 89 senators that responded, 44 said they will vote in favor of storing nuclear materials in the Nevada repository just 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Only 20 senators said they oppose the project, while another 25 said the jury was still out on the decision. Eleven did not respond.

The House of Representatives demonstrated its intent to give the green light on the project last week, when the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted an overwhelming 41-6 in favor of Yucca Mountain.

Bortolin said Nevada hasn’t given up on the Senate just yet, though.

“We know that we’re still a lot closer in the Senate and that’s why our two senators have, and will continue to work their tails off to gain the support we need,” Bortolin said.

Part of the effort includes a recent $6-8 million campaign intended to educate the public about the possible dangers of the transportation aspects of the project. Targeted areas are those that lie along possible shipment routes.

“For the next few months, we’re doing everything we can to get the word out about the transportation concerns,” said Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency on Nuclear Projects. “The Department of Energy doesn’t want transportation to be the issue right now because they’re afraid it will keep the project from happening. The [DOE] knows that if people really knew that these materials were going to be coming through their towns, that they’d urge their Senators to kill the Yucca plan altogether.”

Both Bortolin and Loux said they were encouraged by the response they received from various transportation committee meetings last week.

“We’ve been receiving favorable comment from both sides of the aisle,” Bortolin said. “It was clear that a majority of the members in those meetings had no intent to approve the project at this point in time.”

Loux said even if their efforts fall short in the legislature, Nevada has already crafted a backup plan.

“We’ve hired some of the best constitutional lawyers around to help us with this,” he said.

“One way or another, we’ll stop this thing.”