Dennis Myers: A look at how a key Yucca study was reported

For a reporter, the Government Printing Office is a bonanza, and I often check its website.

The office was the Printing Office for 153 years and four years ago Congress – for no good reason – “rebranded” it the Government Publishing Office, though most people still call it by the original name.

On my most recent visit to the website, I ran a search for Yucca Mountain. Nothing new came up. The most recent is the report of the Government Accounting Office (another pointless change – Accountability has been substituted for Accounting) on the cost of bringing the Yucca project back to life. The study came out in April last year. I remember the report.

With Donald Trump and the Republican Congress trying to revive the project and build the nuclear waste dump in Nevada, GAO examined what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would have to do to adjudicate the license application.

The GAO study says:

■ Parties to the process must receive direction from the NRC, the NRC must decide on timing and other details and identify funding needs for adjudication. to resume the licensing

■ Agencies must rebuild staff and administration to recreate DOE’s, NRC’s, and nonfederal parties’ project offices, obtaining legal, scientific, or other experts for the adjudication and rebuild physical infrastructure, and DOE and NRC may need to update key documents used for the licensing process

■ The NRC must reconvene the parties and complete the remaining phases of the adjudication, including witness depositions and evidentiary hearings

■ The NRC must carry out the process’s remaining steps, including the commission’s final decision on whether to authorize construction of the repository. Cost figures were included.

Quite a task.

As an environmental issue, Yucca Mountain always plays a role in the presidential caucuses and primaries and I got to wondering how well the public was informed on this report last year.

After a search, I found two reports on the study here in the Pahrump Valley Times and one each in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, put an item on his website. The news appeared on some nuclear industry trade pages well spun (Exchange Monitor ran a report with reactions only from two pro-dump U.S. House members, no critics), and there were reports on a variety of other miscellaneous sites.

That was about it. Nothing in the New York Times or other influential national newspapers that help set the news agenda for other journalism entities. It’s not easy for the public to stay informed when journalists don’t inform them.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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