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Tim Burke: Will Yucca Mountain benefit Nye County residents?

Image is based on perception, and perception can often become reality.

The chamber, the tourism board, the Economic Development office, local government, and businesses have been working hard to improve the perception of Pahrump to tourists and others interested in coming here to spend their dollars with some success. Will that hard work take a hit over Yucca Mountain?

That depends. The reality is that Beatty is in much closer proximity to Yucca Mountain and traffic from Las Vegas will not travel through Pahrump to there. So unless someone somehow tries to connect the dots and bring Pahrump into the Yucca picture it probably won’t work against the work that’s been done to improve the perception of Pahrump.

Instead, it could be more of an issue for Beatty and the county/region as a whole. Most of the rest of the United States has very little actual knowledge of Nevada and already view it as a desert wasteland home to gambling, coyotes, rattlesnakes, brothels, and cowboys. So adding a nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain won’t change that perception.

We have been told that there are “benefits” to the state and the region to reopen testing at Yucca Mountain to see if it’s suitable to store nuclear waste there. And there probably are benefits but I have not yet read or heard exactly what those benefits might be as it pertains to Nye County residents.

Certainly, it means jobs but will there be jobs that are suitable to the skills and experience of our current residents? Or will those skills need to be imported with new residents moving here or Beatty to work there? Will there be large federal payments to

Nye County for having the repository located here? And if so, what is the potential use of those payments to benefit county residents? Will it potentially fund road improvements, parks, schools, police and fire, community services and a host of other needs in a county that is poor by any standard? Or will our state government try to hijack any federal payments away from our county and its residents for use in Las Vegas and Reno?

Will roads be improved by the state between Las Vegas and Beatty to handle increased traffic? U.S. Highway 95 between Las Vegas and Tonopah is slowed now with semi-truck traffic. It is very dangerous to pass those trucks on the two-lane highway and adding more traffic guarantees more fatalities.

Will the infrastructure improvements needed in Beatty to support an influx of Yucca Mountain workers be paid for by the federal government? There are a lot of questions with very few answers so far.

Let the science go forward and see if it’s even viable to deposit nuclear waste there. We have a problem in this country with nuclear waste. Sort of stupid to have nuclear waste stored in poorly-equipped facilities with potential problems in containment and security at numerous locations scattered around the country.

So far there has been a lot of rhetoric but very little actual factual information.

Our state-elected officials don’t seem to care much about what Nye County or its residents think of the repository. Most of their rhetoric seems aimed at keeping voters in Las Vegas and Reno happy. Much of the rhetoric from the national media is just plain fake news. One newspaper report I read last week said the repository was only 20 minutes from the Strip.

I guess if you were taking a fighter jet from Nellis you could get there in 20 minutes. Just get to the facts. Is it viable and if it goes forward what is the benefit to Nye County residents? If there is no benefit, put it in someone else’s backyard! If there is a substantial benefit to Nye County then let’s consider it and its impact on our lifestyle. Only then can we make an informed decision on the pros and cons of the repository.

We should have a major voice during the entire process on any decisions because it will directly impact us, whether positively or negatively is to be determined.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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