Guinn, senators to confront Bush today over Yucca Mountain
As a Saturday deadline looms, Nevada’s top three politicians will make a last-minute plea today to President George Bush to keep Yucca Mountain from becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is expected to formally notify Bush by Saturday he has recommended the central Nevada site. Bush could send the recommendation to Congress next week.
Gov. Kenny Guinn and Nevada senators Harry Reid and John Ensign will meet with the president today to try to slow the process.
Guinn said Wednesday the urgency was clear after he advised the White House he wanted to talk with the president.
“It’s really concerning because I had requested a meeting with the president and they called Monday and said ‘OK, we can have a meeting but we have to do it before the 9th,'” said Guinn.
Saturday marks the end of a 30-day deadline for Abraham to make his recommendation to Bush. The energy secretary notified Guinn on Jan. 10 of his intention to approve the Yucca site.
“So it’s really telling you this is on a fast track, whatever action he’s going to take,” said the governor in a phone interview from Las Vegas.
He and Ensign are both Republicans who solidly supported Bush in the 1998 elections in Nevada. Reid is the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate leadership.
“At least we’ll have the opportunity to sit down and talk to him before he makes the decision — publicly anyway,” said Guinn.
He said he hopes the decision isn’t a “done deal” but that, in any case, Guinn wants Bush to hear Nevada’s arguments that much more scientific study must be done.
“The main issue we want to talk to him about is safe science and sound science,” he said.
Guinn said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is among the groups saying more study is needed on up to 292 issues before a decision is made.
Those issues include the dangers of transporting the waste to Yucca Mountain 75 miles north of Las Vegas, how long the site and the waste containers will last before leaking, the potential for earthquakes and volcanoes to damage the site and dangers the radioactive material will reach groundwater below Yucca Mountain.
“Local communities have to do an environmental study to build single-family homes, and here we’re talking about building a $70 billion storage facility for nuclear waste and you don’t even have an environmental impact study,” he said.
He said Bush may not be aware of some of the issues. If Bush indicates his mind is made up to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, “I want to be the first to express to him in a very professional way that I will invoke all authority under the law to protect the people of the state of Nevada.”
Guinn and Nevada’s two senators plan to show Bush “that it’s not a political issue in this state. It’s a Nevada issue against those other states and the high powered lobbyists who represent the nuclear power industry,” the governor said.
Guinn said that means he will veto the project and the senators will fight any attempt to override that veto in Congress. And if it is overridden, he said, Nevada will take its case to court.
“You just have to go sit down with the president of the United states face to face and make your case,” he said. “That’s the best shot we have with him.”