Pahrump Valley Gazette

Anti-nuke Shundahai Network moves headquarters to Pahrump

By Joe Cross
February 8, 2001

The Shundahai Network is an organization that has become well-known among protesters at the Nevada Test site over the years with a number of its members more than willing to go to jail to show their opposition to nuclear testing.

Now not only has it changed its focus, it has moved to a new headquarters in Pahrump as it joins the battle to keep high-level nuclear waste from being brought to Nye County's Yucca Mountain.

According to Shundahai spokesperson MerLynn Rose, the group had spent the last 3.5 years based in Las Vegas But decided recently to relocate here "So we could work with Pahrump and the other more affected communities to make (more people) aware of what's going on at Yucca Mountain.

With that in mind, Rose said Shundahai has scheduled monthly informational meetings to explain about high-level waste and the potential problems it could bring to the county - as well as what people can do to help fight the governments efforts.

The next one of those sessions will be held at the new Community Public Library from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24. .

Rose said Shudahai's goal is simple:, Me want to get (storing high-level waste at) Yucca Mountain stopped." She said that despite reports out of Washington, DC, that it was only a matter of time before Congress gives the go-ahead to turning Yucca Mountain into the temporary repository for the more deadly waste material, "We don't consider it a done deal:"

Rose said that she, along with other Shundahai officials, believe that Nevada is going to be joined in the fight by other states when they realize that the material will be shipped through their areas on the way to Nevada.

Another Shundahai official, Piper Weinberg, said that the organization believes it is important that people in Pahrump get involved irk the fight.

"The people in Pahrump have to have s voice that is unified so (they) could (get) the town to take an official stance," Weinberg said.

By getting a unified voice, Weinberg said the community could have an impact in the eventual decision-making "because of its proximity" to Yucca Mountain.;

"Since the Department of Energy hasn't been listening to scattered voices (by unifying) the Town of Pahrump, if it chooses, could stop the shipments."

Both Rose and Weinberg said that they feel the government has yet to prove the safety of shipping the deadly materials to Nevada.

"The truth of the matter is that nobody knows how to contain (the waste)," Weinberg said.

Rose noted that the DOE and other governmental agencies involved in the study of Yucca Mountain as a permanent site for keeping the high-level waste are still uncertain as to its reliability.

"They keep saying that they (need to drill more) holes," she said of testing at the mountain. "They (still) don't even know where to start (the inspection process)."

Also taking part in the move to Pahrump was the founder of Shundahai who has become known worldwide not only for his opposition to the use of nuclear energy but also to other growing problems with the environment.

He is Corbin Harney, a spiritual leader of the Western Shoshone who said that besides the dangers involved with nuclear waste, there has been a lot of misinformation about the tribe's stand on storing it in Nevada - on what is actually Western Shoshone land.

Noting that Yucca Mountain was included in the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty "that said (all people) would have safe passage" through the entire area.

However, Harney said, when the government decided to start testing Yucca Mountain as the long-term location for the storage of high-level nuke waste, "They never bothered to ask the Western Shoshone people" about turning their land over for the site.

Harney said that somehow, the idea that the Shoshone had given their approval has been floating around for years and pointed to a recent study on Yucca Mountain that was prepared by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which once again made the claim.

Harvey, who lives in Tecopa, said that not only have the Shoshone never given their backing to the storage plan or, for that matter, about using the Test Site for nuclear testing, they were never asked for a reaction when the nuclear testing era began; decades ago.

"The Shoshones' concerns (about nuclear testing or storage) have always been there form the beginning... (when) president Truman set aside (the land) for military use," he said, noting that Truman kept secret the fact the land was to be used to test nuclear weapons above ground. '

"Our way of life is to protect the land," Harney said, "Everybody survives on (this planet because of being able to use the land). We want to talk of our Mother Earth (because all the living things - animals, birds, plantlife - need it to survive.

" Animal life has told us from the beginning - you protect us and we wilt protect you. Now their food is running out. We need to take care of the water, air and animal life (but) today nuclear energy is destroying those things and it will get worse as time goes along."

He said that the DOE "doesn't understand the things that they are doing (to the earth)."

In a Shundahai Network brochure, they point out that, among other things, "DOE studies have shown that water flow through Yucca Mountain is quick and groundwater is already showing contamination from nuclear testing."

It also contended that "more than 40 million people are at risk from nuclear accidents if truck or train waste shipments to Yucca (Mountain begin."

The Shundahai. Network was formed in 1994 at the test Site by a council of long-term nuclear disarmament activists at Homey's request.

It has since evolved into an international network of activists and organizations that bridges, as officials noted in a brochure, "the gap between the environmental, peace, justice and indigenous land rights communities."

Corbin said the, since the organization was created he spent three years living in Washington, DC, attempting to get Congress to take a new look at the use of nuclear material from building bombs to energy plants.

Then, in 1996, the headquarters were moved to Las Vegas as. a way of "better monitoring the Test Site."