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Terrorism top concern in town near proposed Nevada nuclear dump

AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. (AP) – Talk of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks dominated a hearing in the town closest to a mountain ridge where the U.S. government is proposing to bury the nation’s nuclear waste.

One speaker said the plan to truck nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas was ”on a moral par with Osama bin Laden.”

Another said leaving radioactive waste at sites around the nation posed a greater risk than storing it in Nevada.



And one Las Vegas resident noted that the Nellis Air Force Range, where pilots from Middle Eastern nations have trained, is only a two-minute flight from Yucca Mountain.

The Department of Energy hearing in this rural Nye County community initially was scheduled for the day after the terrorist attacks. It was postponed until Wednesday, when it drew about 55 people to the Longstreet Inn.



All but a few of Wednesday’s 32 speakers opposed putting nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain on the edge of the Nevada Test Site. Most who spoke at a marathon hearing last month in North Las Vegas also opposed the project.

The series of Energy Department hearings are scheduled to conclude Friday with hearings in Pahrump, Fallon, Hawthorne and Virginia City.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Viereck, of Tecopa, Calif., said she was concerned that radioactivity from the proposed repository could affect groundwater supplies and the Amargosa River.

She also said she feared the government’s plan for bringing the waste to Nevada could result in disaster.

Viereck said 100,000 trucks carrying nuclear waste would have to travel through the nation’s cities. She compared the U.S. government saying it isn’t responsible for transportation because it will be handled by private contractors to Osama bin Laden turning loose terrorists and saying that he isn’t responsible for their decisions to hijack planes and kill innocent people.

Bin Laden is suspected of being responsible for airline hijackings and crashes in New York, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania.

Ed Munton of Amargosa Valley said Wednesday that it makes sense to put the nation’s 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste in tunnels deep inside Yucca Mountain rather than leave it at reactor sites around the country.

”What would be a better target, the Test Site or those 100 reactor storage areas?” Munton asked.

Homer Johnson, a Las Vegas resident, said he is a former Navy enlisted man who was trained to clean up contamination from nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. He said nuclear waste casks on trucks and railroad cars make big targets.

Kalynda Tilges, nuclear issues coordinator for Citizen Alert, a statewide environmental group, said people who live near reactor sites see the potential dangers of stockpiling spent nuclear fuel.

”There’s a reason they don’t want it there,” she said. ”It’s not safe.”

During the hearing, Abe Van Luik, a Yucca Mountain Project employee who said he was speaking as a private citizen, said Yucca Mountain would be a safe site to store nuclear waste.

”It is not risk-free, but meets the ethical standard,” said Van Luik, an Energy Department employee who is technical adviser to the project manager. ”This is a safe activity if it is done right.”

Steve Frishman, a consultant and technical policy adviser to Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency, said Van Luik’s statements represented a conflict of interest because they indicate he is prejudiced toward finding the site suitable.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is expected to make a recommendation to President Bush this year about whether Yucca Mountain is a suitable site to entomb the nation’s nuclear waste beginning in 2010. It is the only site being considered.


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