In Business Las Vegas

Editorial: Reject suspect Yucca job claims

February 6, 2004

Earlier this week the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Center for Business and Economic Research released a study, paid for by the Energy Depart-ment, that said the state's economy would be hurt if the Yucca Mountain project ended. The researchers contend that the 3,650 high-paying jobs at the Yucca Mountain project benefit the state by producing $131 million in annual disposable income. And if Yucca Mountain receives a green light to open from federal regulators, the economists say the benefits to the state would increase. Construc-tion and maintenance on-site at Yucca Mountain and in the building of a rail line in Southern Nevada for the waste would create an additional 2,000-2,500 jobs during the dump's transportation and operations phase from 2010 to 2035.

What is fascinating is that this is the same research group that two years ago highlighted the economic problems for Southern Nevada if a nuclear waste dump was built here. Back then the Center for Business and Economic Research was being paid for its analysis by Clark County government, which opposes the dump. The center's latest eco-nomic report on Yucca Mountain sounds as if it was ghostwritten by its benefactors at the Energy Department.

The researchers' findings - that a radioactive waste dump is good for Nevada - is so counterintuitive and out of touch with reality that it is laughable. No other state wants the radioactive garbage - for economic reasons. Only a few economically depressed Indian tribes, desperate for any kind of development no matter how dangerous, have offered up their reservations as burial sites. These tribal efforts, by the way, were quashed by worried state governments where the reserva-tions are located. This issue isn't about better-paying jobs, it's about the federal government's unyielding strong-arm tactics in trying to bury 77,000 tons of man's deadliest waste in Nevada despite warnings about how dangerous it is to do so. The geology here, in a state with the third-most earthquakes in the nation, is hardly suited for burying high-level radioactive waste. And the cross-country transportation risks, especially those posed by terrorism, are enormous.

It also is troubling that the researchers suggest a public relations campaign as an avenue for "mitigating the social costs and reducing lo-cal resistance to nuclear waste transport: reducing the risk that people perceive from transport." Fortunately, the people of Southern Nevada know better. Businesses understand that a nuclear waste dump would seriously harm this region's economy, which is why two of the state's largest business groups - the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Resort Association - oppose Yucca Mountain. We hope that all businesses loudly reject this Energy Department-funded study that certainly will be used in the federal government's continuing prop-aganda campaign, one that hasn't made any headway in Nevada - ex-cept, of course, among economists-for-hire.