Yucca Mountain Update -- A Publication of the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects

Volume 2 Issue 2 ~ February 17, 2004
http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste


 

 

 

 

IN THIS ISSUE...
 

- A tale of two realities: Yucca Mountain and its implications for Nevada

- Yucca Mountain critic Paul Craig to speak Feb. 18 at Sierra Club meeting in Reno, Nev.

- Outrage of the Week

 

A tale of two realities: Yucca Mountain and its implications for Nevada
 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ... .”

The famous opening line in Charles Dickens' classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, speaks to the extreme dichotomies that make up our experience of the world – and of a particular place and time – and how one’s experience depends very much one’s vantage point. 

Recent news articles regarding a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) report on supposed economic benefits of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump for Southern Nevada present the State of Nevada with an example of economic polarity with some Dickensonian characteristics.

 

On the one hand, there is a UNLV report that paints a rosy picture of jobs and revenue to be derived from an otherwise noxious and unwanted facility – something akin to making a silk purse out of the proverbial sow’s ear.  On the other hand is another report, done just two years earlier by the same UNLV group, which depicts the economic impacts of Yucca Mountain in an extraordinarily negative, even disastrous, light.

 

So how is it that the UNLV people can see Yucca Mountain as both the best of times and the worst of times – at the same time?  In the words of another famous, albeit anonymous, observer of human folly, "Follow the money." 

 

The report painting the bright economic picture was paid for by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain project.  The report showing the serious economic risks and costs of the federal program was commissioned and sponsored by the Clark County Nuclear Waste Division as part of the county’s assessment of Yucca impacts.

 

In the overly-rosy report prepared for DOE, UNLV concluded that not only was Yucca Mountain good for Nevada’s economy in the long run, but to halt the project now would mean that economic losses to the current economy “would be substantial.” 

 

By contrast, in the report paid for by Clark County, the same UNLV folks warned, “The transportation of nuclear waste [even] without an accident or spillage of radioactive material through a large urban community will have adverse impacts on a community such as Las Vegas which depends on travel and tourism for its economic livelihood.  The maximum economic impact of a transportation accident … is devastating to any community, especially one which depends upon travel and tourism as its economic engine.” 

 

So which is right?  You be the judge.  In the DOE report, UNLV concluded that Yucca Mountain would bring 3,650 jobs to Nevada, accounting for an average of $131 million per year in additional real disposable income.  In the 2001 Clark County report, however, UNLV found that, even in a scenario where no transportation accidents occur, Yucca Mountain would mean a net loss of almost 5,400 jobs and an annual loss of disposable income of $282 million.  In the event of a serious shipping accident, more than 50,000 jobs could be lost due to the resultant disruption to the area’s economy, with an average annual drop in disposable income of $686 million.

 

Property values along transportation routes are projected to decrease an average of 3.5 percent in Clark County, even without an accident occurring.  In the event of an accident or serious incident, losses in real market value could be between $5.6 billion and $8.8 billion just in Cark County, with additional declines in Washoe and Elko counties of $2 billion and $129 million respectively. 

 

The tale told by the Clark County report is a far more accurate portrayal of how Yucca Mountain will impact Nevada than the unrealistically rosy picture painted by the DOE-funded study.  Reams of research by the State of Nevada and independent social scientists and economists from around the country have consistently found that the costs and risks of the Yucca Mountain project far outweigh any transient economic and employment benefits that might accrue from the program. 

 

The unanswered question in all of this is why UNLV didn’t attempt to factor the findings of the report it did for the county into the DOE report.  The answer seems obvious:  You can’t paint a rosy picture when the negative impacts are as great as they are for Yucca Mountain, and DOE was paying for a rosy portrayal. 

 

It is no coincidence that no other state in the country wants the nuclear repository project.  And it is no mystery why the federal government is going to such great lengths to jam it down Nevada’s collective throat. 

 

To paraphrase Dickens, it is a far, far better thing to recognize that Yucca Mountain represents an unacceptable and potentially catastrophic risk for Nevada, both in terms of the negative impacts for Nevada’s economy and to the health and safety of its citizens, and to continue the fight to assure this facility never sees the light of day.

Yucca Mountain critic Paul Craig to speak Feb. 18 at Sierra Club meeting in Reno, Nev.
Paul Craig, who recently resigned from the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) and has since been speaking out about the design flaws of the proposed Yucca Mountain project, will be the guest speaker at a Nevada Sierra Club community discussion Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Bartley Ranch Interpretive Center, 6000 Bartley Ranch Rd., in Reno, Nev.

Appointed to the NWTRB by President Clinton in January 1997, Craig submitted his resignation to President Bush effective Jan. 19.  Since leaving the NWTRB, Craig – a Professor of Engineering Emeritus at the University of California, Davis – has become an outspoken critic of the federal government’s plan to store 77,000 cubic tons of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

 

Craig said he will discuss the history of Yucca Mountain and "how it got to be what it is today," the science behind the project, and background on the NWTRB.
 

A reception will precede Craig’s speech, beginning at 6:30 p.m.  For more information, contact Carrie Sandstedt at (775) 324-0448 or carrie.sandstedt@sierraclub.org.

Outrage of
the Week

On Jan. 29, the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain Repository Office held an “affected units of government” (AUG) meeting at its offices on Hillshire Boulevard in Las Vegas.  The meeting was called to provided the State of Nevada and local governments with information on DOE’s announced intention to name a preferred alternative for a rail access line to Yucca Mountain and discuss DOE’s schedule, budget and other matters.

 

These meetings have historically involved the State, the eight Nevada counties and one California jurisdiction that have been formally designated as “affected units of local government,” representatives from incorporated cities within Clark County, tribal representatives, interest groups and members of the public.

 

The Jan. 29 meeting, however, represented a disturbing departure from past meetings.  For the first time since DOE began focusing on Yucca Mountain and interacting with Nevada stakeholders (more than 20 years ago), an affected Nevada jurisdiction was barred from attending the meeting. 

 

When the City of Henderson’s representative showed up at the entrance to the Hillshire facility, he was told by Yucca Mountain project staff that he wasn’t welcome.   He did not have advance permission to be there, they informed him and, besides, the meeting room was too small to accommodate attendance from all jurisdictions that historically had attended.  While Henderson isn’t one of the officially-designated “affected” jurisdictions, it ‘affected’ by the Yucca project nonetheless and has been an active participant in AUG meetings for since the mid-1980s. 

 

Ironically, representatives from other non-formally-designated parties were allowed into the meeting, including the City of Caliente (whose mayor just happens to be an outspoken supporter of DOE’s Yucca Mountain activities), a Nevada public interest group representative, representatives of the Nevada public relations firm doing work for the nuclear power industry, the NRC, numerous DOE contractor personnel, and assorted hangers on.  

 

Barring the City of Henderson’s representative from the meeting was an outrage and an affront to everyone in Nevada.  It signals a new level of arrogance on the part of DOE in its dealings with stakeholders in Nevada.  Coming on the heels of action by DOE and NRC over the past several months to bar State of Nevada representatives from pre-licensing meetings where crucial Yucca Mountain site suitability issues were being discussed (and where deals among DOE and NRC staff were most likely being cut), the trend towards exclusionary practices and secrecy is doubly troubling.

 

There can be no justification for barring any Nevada jurisdictions, Indian tribes, or citizens from meetings like the one held on Jan. 29.  There’s nothing classified, sensitive (except politically), or secret discussed at these meetings that justifies restricting attendance.  Likewise, there are no valid security reasons to keep anyone out. 

 

The use of facilities – like the Yucca Mountain office on Hillshire Boulevard -  with onerous security requirements and limited meeting space is nothing more than a transparent excuse for restricting participation and making it hard for certain legitimate stakeholders (i.e., those not in DOE’s pocket) to gain access to Yucca Mountain information.

Interestingly, it’s also a tactic DOE has employed in the past.  In 2001, for example, a public meeting required under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to inform Nevadans of DOE’s intent to recommend Yucca Mountain for development as a repository was held at the highly secure Nevada Operations Office facility in North Las Vegas, making it extremely difficult for citizens to attend, while effectively serving DOE’s desire to limit public turnout. 

 

The shenanigans surrounding the Jan.  29 meeting are even more troubling because affected Nevada local governments, which will unquestioningly bear the brunt of DOE’s Yucca Mountain actions if the project is permitted to go forward, are being told that their participation in what DOE has always touted as a completely open and transparent process is no longer welcome. 

We welcome comments and story ideas for this newsletter. 
For media information, please contact Tom Bradley,
Brown & Partners,
at (702) 876-5611 or via
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tbradley@brown-partners.com.

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