By Mark Waite
Candidates for office at the Artesia Community Center candidates forum Tuesday night all seemed to agree Yucca Mountain was a project worth pursuing.
It was the sole question from the audience, posed by Richard Hatch, after the stump speeches ended.
Danny Tarkanian, who leads in fundraising for the new congressional District 4 seat, quickly took the microphone.
“I’ve taken the position Yucca Mountain would be a great asset for the state. We’ve invested $12 billion in tax dollars,” Tarkanian said.
He suggested the site could be used for a number of things: a reprocessing facility for spent nuclear fuel, a national data storage facility, even the world’s largest military base because it resembles the terrain for the war on terrorism.
“We are really missing the boat if we ignore this opportunity because Nevada needs a first class economy and to create jobs. This is a way we create jobs,” Tarkanian said.
Two other prominent candidates for U.S. Congress weren’t there, State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas and State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.
Independent American Party candidate for Congress Floyd Fitzgibbons said, “if you look at the Constitution, the federal government has no authority over Yucca Mountain. They should not be controlling 85 percent of the land in Nevada. That’s the first problem we have with Yucca Mountain, it should be a states rights issue. That’s what the 10th amendment is all about.”
Independent American Party U.S. Senate candidate David Van der Beek said, “We’re still going to get radiation poison that blows across the ocean into the United States. It’s worse than Chernobyl. So you have to be careful with nuclear power. These plants are all aging.”
“I like Yucca Mountain and most of the people in my district like Yucca Mountain,” Republican congressional candidate Dan Schwartz said. “It’s not a scientific problem, it’s an emotional issue and until the people in Las Vegas, who really are financing our politicians, agree with us, very little is going to happen.”
He added, “I think it’s a great project.”
Republican congressional candidate Mike Dela Rosa said there needs to be a differentiation between federal and state law. This is a state issue, he said,
“We could write a memorandum that we put it in there. It’s a state right,” he said.
Republican congressional candidate Kenneth Wegner suggested putting breeder reactors at 138 defense sites, he said it will provide low cost power from recycled nuclear waste for 100 years.
Republican Robert Leeds said he doesn’t want endangered species like a snail darter, holding up projects, like Yucca Mountain.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Steve Brown questioned why it was being discussed at all.
“As far as storing nuclear waste, it’s never going to happen anyway. How are they going to get it there?” Brown asked.
If it comes to the northern route, shipping it through Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois, he predicted, “once they find out they’re going to ship trucks and freight there, it’ll never happen.”
If they take it the southern route, Texas has too much political power, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he doesn’t want it going through Arizona, Brown said.
“This is complete nonsense we’re even talking about this here. Why do you even want to move it in the first place?” Brown asked.
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis said completing the Yucca Mountain project would provide 7,000 jobs in southern Nevada. It’s one of the three issues he is raising in his campaign for re-election to district 2.
County commission district 2 candidate Garren Hesketh also took a stab at the question. Hesketh said he supports Yucca Mountain.
“I’m for Yucca Mountain, the military has been shipping weapons, atomic weapons and nuclear material all over the states,” Hesketh said. “In 60 years, to the best of my knowledge we haven’t had an accident yet. It is safe.”