Nuclear waste storage could affect US Senate race in Nevada

More than 3.5 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste are buried in a coastal cliff just south of Orange County, near an idyllic beach whose name appears in the Beach Boys' iconic “Surfin' USA”

Spent fuel rods from the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant were it's supposed to be sent to a long-planned federal repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

But vociferous opposition from a broad bipartisan coalition of political, business, environmental and tribal leaders in Nevada has blocked the creation of the San Onofre federal nuclear waste cemetery, as well as more than 100 other sites. throughout the nation.

Yucca Mountain is a third rail in Nevada politics, similar to the limits on California property tax increases created by Proposition 13. That's why presidents of both parties have refrained from creating the reservoir in the Silver State, whose voters are increasingly crucial to winning elections. White House.

All of which makes Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown's comments about Yucca Mountain so notable.

In recent years, Brown supported opening the facility, calling failure to do so an “incredible loss of revenue for our state.” Asked about the comments in the context of a Senate race that could determine which party controls the Senate after the November elections, Brown did not reiterate his support but said he favors greater efforts to diversify the economy. of the state without sacrificing security.

Yucca Mountain was approved by Congress more than two decades ago, but Nevada politicians of both parties have blocked funding allocations, so only preliminary work on the repository has been completed.

Brown was asked about the future of the project two years ago.

“If we don't act soon, other states … are looking at whether they can essentially rob us of that opportunity,” Brown said. she said in response to a question at a Southern Hills 2022 Republican Women's Luncheon at Dragon Ridge Country Club in Henderson, Nevada.

“We all know that Nevada could use another big revenue stream and it sure would be a shame if we didn't monopolize that and become a central hub for new developments we can do in Yucca,” he said in a recording of the meeting obtained by The Times.

Brown's campaign did not respond when asked if his comments represented his current views on Yucca Mountain, but provided a statement from the Army combat veteran.

“I am always interested in economic opportunities for Nevada that better diversify our economy. “As the next senator, I will explore every avenue available to make Nevada the most prosperous place possible while continuing to protect the security of our water supply, expand tourism revenue, and increase opportunities for all businesses,” he said. Brown. “With energy prices doubling last year, we need leadership to explore all energy solutions for a better Nevada.”

Nevada Republican US Senate candidate Sam Brown speaks to reporters in 2022.

Nevada Republican US Senate candidate Sam Brown speaks to reporters in 2022.

(Tom R. Smedes / Associated Press)

Brown is the favorite in the Republican Senate primary, which will be held June 11 and will determine which Republican will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in the fall.

A spokesman for Rosen said the Republican's position endangers Nevadans and makes him unable to represent the state.

“Nevada Republicans and Democrats have been fighting the storage of dangerous nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain for decades, but Sam Brown agrees with D.C. politicians in Congress who still want to turn Nevada into the toxic waste dump of the country,” said spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw.

Although Congress in 2002 approved the creation of a long-term radioactive waste storage facility on federal land at Yucca Mountain, near a historic nuclear testing range, Presidents Obama blocked efforts to build it. Triumph and Bidenin part a recognition of the importance of Nevadans in the country's politics, as well as the power of Sin City's casinos.

Three in four likely voters in the state opposed the project in a 2017 poll conducted for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Although the state has become increasingly Democratic in recent years and voted against Trump in the last two presidential elections, Nevada is expected to be a hotly contested place in November. Trump leads Biden by 3.2 points in an average of recent polls there, according to Real Clear Politics.

Nevada is also among the states that will determine which party controls the Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority. Although Rosen is outperforming Biden, the race is considered one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.

Brown, in his 2022 comments, said that “the lack of understanding” and “scaremongering” on the part of the late former senator Harry Reid, a Democratic powerhouseand others would ultimately harm the state's economy.

But many Nevada Republicans have also opposed the project, including former governors. Brian Sandoval and Jim Gibbons, U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, former attorney. Gen. Adam Laxalt and former Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, as well as business groups such as the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Some rural Nevadans have supported the creation of the reservoir for economic reasons.

A bipartisan vote to move forward with Yucca Mountain, long blocked by Reid, occurred in 2018 when Rosen, then a member of the House, ran against Republican Sen. Dean Heller. Although the proposal passed the House, Heller effectively blocked funding for the creation of the repository in the Senate before Rosen defeated him in the general election.

Both Trump and Biden have said they would not fund the project, but Nevadans were alarmed this month by pro-Yucca comments made by lawmakers during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which were seen as a sign that efforts will be renewed to store nuclear waste in your state.

“The opposition is not security-related or technical,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the committee chair. “It's political. Opposition by states like Nevada in particular to this program has inhibited congressional appropriations and led the executive branch to dismantle what would otherwise have been a technically successful program.”

Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, predicted that Brown's comments will come back to haunt him.

“I can imagine the announcements about the dangers, accidents related to nuclear energy and things like that,” Green said. “I don't think he did himself any favors.”

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