Schinhofen criticizes opposition to Yucca

CARSON CITY — Bob Halstead, director of the state office of nuclear projects, told the Legislative Committee on High-Level Radioactive Waste Friday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission won’t have money to complete studies on Yucca Mountain. His comments drew a rebuke from Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen.

“I did roll up my pants leg when Mr. Halstead was speaking,” Schinhofen said afterwards under public comment. He was scolded for his language by the chairman of the committee.

Halstead attacked what he said was pro-Yucca Mountain propaganda.

“They create the impression a repository was ready to accept waste and the current administration walked away from it. Simply not true. Another $84 billion we have to spend to construct the facility according to DOE plans,” he said.

A Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals split decision mandated the NRC complete the licensing process. But Halstead said the pro-Yucca Mountain advocates falsely claimed victory. The NRC has to finalize the safety evaluation report and set up some sort of database with billions of pages of accessible documents if the case goes forward to adjudication, he said.

Halstead said their attorneys estimate $100 million will be needed for all the legal proceedings, while the NRC only has $13 million in carryover funding.

Halstead said if the licensing process continues, the U.S. Department of Energy wouldn’t have funds to be dragged into court in hearings that would take place next January.

The 2008 license application is no longer valid and accurate, Halstead said, transportation impacts are also unacceptable.

While critics say the government can’t just walk away from a $15 billion investment, Halstead said some of the lessons learned can be used to facilitate licensing a repository in another state.

“I feel safe arguing at this point there’s at least $13 billion to $20 billion in savings that will be saved by walking away from Yucca Mountain and locating it in salt,” Halstead said. That is an apparent reference to the salt domes used near Carlsbad, N.M.

Halstead said the government would transport high level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain in one to three train loads per week from 76 sites spread over 32 states, using a new railroad from Caliente that would be the largest rail construction project in 100 years costing $300 billion. But he said there will also be lots of truck shipments going through Clark County. The train route would travel through mountain ranges, through 15 tunnels and across 100 bridges, across land owned by long time Nevada ranching families, he said.

“What kept coming out was fear and loathing in Las Vegas. What we kept hearing was how it can’t happen,” Schinhofen countered.

He said the same objections to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act were vetoed by Congress and the president in 2002, declaring Yucca Mountain the repository of the nation’s nuclear waste.

“Yes there was political maneuvering in 1987 and since then it hasn’t stopped on our part and in 2010 when the finds were illegally pulled from Yucca Mountain we lost 2,500 jobs in southern Nevada. Is this safe? I’m not a nuclear scientist,” Schinhofen said.

Schinhofen said Nye County and six other rural counties signed a resolution asking for the licensing process to resume.

“After $15 billion and 30 years let’s see the science,” he said.

Ed Mueller, director of the Esmeralda County oversight program, said Nevada has never negotiated for safety or benefits as allowed under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

That ability to negotiate will close if the license is approved by the NRC. He said rather than being just a repository, Yucca Mountain could become a world class nuclear research center.

“Why wouldn’t you want to look at the possibility of a $90 million public works program starting up in the State of Nevada?” Mueller asked. “You must put away the idea Yucca Mountain is political suicide.”

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