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Dan Schinhofen to Nevada governor: Don’t follow the old Yucca playbook

Recently, the governor, along with most of our congressional delegation, sent two letters to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concerning Area 5 at the Nevada National Security Site, and of course, Yucca Mountain.

Earthquake safety at Yucca Mountain was part of the $15 billion that was spent to see if Yucca Mountain National Repository could be constructed and operated safely. All of our national labs believe it is safe as do the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) technical staff.

If earthquake safety is the real issue here then why hasn’t Gov. Steve Sisolak, D-Nevada, ordered state staff to review building codes as the buildings on the Strip in Las Vegas pose a far greater threat to safety than if Yucca Mountain had spent fuel buried, 1,000 feet below the mountain and a quake big enough to bring it down happened.

The only thing that would happen at Yucca is the material would be buried and no explosion nor material released into the atmosphere. On the other hand, the loss of life in Las Vegas would be catastrophic as would the property damage. Hell, if that big of a quake happened, we’d be beachfront property.

Neither the laws of physics nor the geology have changed in the past 30-plus years since the science has been completed on the safety of this national repository. We have all been waiting for the NRC to hold the hearings so that the state of Nevada can finally show us the science they claim they have, to dispute the findings of the national labs, NRC staff, and the hundreds of scientists who spent years and $15 billion researching.

Instead, the state continues to promote fear-mongering rather than just sitting down in public hearings and proving their case. Nevada has spent over $50 million of local tax money to simply delay and obfuscate about this issue. These latest letters are just more of the same.

All the facts are in, and the state does not want them heard, so they continue to just say no to a multi-generational, multi-billion-dollar public works program that would rival the Hoover Dam.

If the governor and our federal delegation want to know about the safety of this site, then stop the roadblocks and tell the DOE and NRC to move forward with the law. During the licensing process, all of the facts will be available to all of us.

When Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada was in power he made sure there was no funding for this law, while proclaiming to the Republicans that wanted to defund the health care act to, “get over it, it’s the law.”

This kind of hypocrisy is one of the reasons our trust in government is so low. The rule of law used to matter, but now it is up to the whim of our elected officials if they “want to” follow the law. Now it seems, after years of votes in the House, along bipartisan lines to fund this law, it will not happen in the House as Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking a page out of Reid’s playbook.

Something the public should also know is that low-level waste can sometimes be “hotter” than high-level waste. This is because the United States classifies the material high or low level by where it was generated, not on its half-life or by how long you can be exposed without being contaminated. (This is an issue for another column, if they even print this one.)

Last thing — again, if there was an earthquake at Yucca Mountain after material is stored there, and that quake was big enough to bring that mountain down, the loss of life on the Strip would far outnumber any potential health risk from material buried under 1,000 feet of rock, nearly one hundred miles from Las Vegas. It can’t explode and as it will be solid ceramic pellets, nothing would be released into the atmosphere. Maybe the state should be reviewing their own earthquake standards for high-rise construction if earthquake safety is the real issue.

Governor, please do not follow the old playbook, but rather be the adult in the room. Ask your federal delegation to fund the LAW and get on with the hearings so the citizens of this state can finally be shown the science your staff claim they have, that prove the national labs, NRC staff and the hundreds of scientists that worked on Yucca Mountain National Repository wrong.

Also, maybe you could have stopped and toured Area 5 when you took your trip to Carson City the first part of this year.

As far as I can find you’ve never toured the site or sat down with the scientists that actually worked on these sites. Please get all the facts, governor, before sending inflammatory letters just to boost your image.

Dan Schinhofen is a former Nye County commissioner.

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