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Yucca Mountain is about national security, not state’s rights

On July 7, I had the privilege to represent the Board of County Commissioners at the sub-committee hearing on Energy and Commerce in Washington, D.C. You can view the hearing on YouTube at http://bit.ly/29yvvPc.

There were six people that testified and they were Congresswoman Dina Titus, Congressman Mark Amodei, Congressman Cresent Hardy, State Senator Joe Hardy, Mr. Humphrey, a private citizen, and I.

While Congresswoman Titus stuck to the state line, there were a few things that were not reported in the local paper about this hearing. She stated that she, “…stands with the 75 percent of Nevadans that oppose this project.” Two of the other presenters corrected this by telling the committee that there have been recent polls showing over 60 percent approval of hearing the science and following the law in support of Yucca Mountain.

The second point she made was that IF the water were to be contaminated from use of Yucca Mountain it would flow toward Las Vegas. No study shows this and Nye County has done extensive working modeling for decades. It flows toward Death Valley.

The other two congressmen did not just say “no” as the state has for years, but rather considered that the science needs to be heard. Amodei consistently has said that he does not want the spent fuel to be dumped and forgotten about, but rather that the DOE should pay for our universities to study reprocessing and recycling to find a cost-effective way to regain the 90 percent of fuel that is not used while in reactors. This would add another possible industry for our state without giving out tax abatements to get these jobs.

Congressman Hardy’s statement about not supporting it, “If the science and people of Nevada do not,” echoes what Nye County has said for years. Nye County’s official position on the repository has and continues to be, “Follow the law, let the science be vetted by the NRC, and then we can discuss proper mitigation for infrastructure and also support services needed to accommodate this project.”

State Sen. Hardy made it clear that he believes there is a change in political will coming and even held up a tea bag stating, “I can read the tea leaves.”

While the state and the Department of Energy have talked about consent-based, they did not allow Nye County in any of the talks they had concerning putting U233 and U235 into area 5. This material is as hot as anything that would go into Yucca and yet they found it to be safe to put it into shallow trenches in Nye County.

No one wants another nuclear dump, as Nye County has two already that we get very little from. Yucca Mountain is not a state’s rights issue, but rather a national security issue and I am unaware of any other national security site that allows state, local and tribal governments to veto or consent to them.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act has set forth clear guidelines to accomplish this, but we believe a few amendments would ensure more local and state control, and benefits, if Congress were to address it.

At this hearing we had, for the first time ever, state and local elected officials that were not just sticking their fingers in their ears and saying no to Yucca. Instead they gave thoughtful comments on how this project could go forward while protecting the citizens of this state.

No one will except a repository if it is not proven safe to construct and operate, and while the Safety Evaluation Reports (SER’s) were finally released by the NRC do show it is safe, the NRC needs to be funded and the law followed to allow for open hearings on this issue.

We believe that Nevadans deserve to have all the science that has been collected over the past 30 years and at a cost of 15 billion dollars heard before any decision is made.

While Robert Halstead, the state’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, who declined to testify, has stated on many occasions that he welcomes the opportunity to have the state’s contentions heard, they continue to fight the very funding that could make this so.

Dan Schinhofen is the Nye County commissioner for District V.

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Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the July 2, 2021 edition of the Pahrump Valley Times and is being republished here as advancements on the Rhyolite Ridge mining project are made. The co-writers of this column were Nancy Boland, a former chairwoman of the Esmeralda County Commission who has served on the Esmeralda County Land Use Advisory Committee, along with Kathy Keyes, Greg Dedera and Mark Hartman, residents of Fish Lake Valley. Public comment for the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Mine Project in Esmeralda County ends Feb. 3, 2023.

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