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Unlike most Nevada politicians, Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen refuses to just say no to Yucca Mountain.
Schinhofen released a letter last week praising President Donald Trump’s $120 million budget request to continue the licensing process for Yucca Mountain as the country’s nuclear waste repository.
“Now is the time to put politics aside and see what the science says — to let qualified professionals determine if the repository can be built and operated safely,” the letter says. “Nye County has long wanted to hear the science for Yucca Mountain, and then decide if the geological site is safe for our residents today and in the future.”
Federal funding was cut off for Yucca Mountain in 2011 in the face of opposition from President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid. The mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was the only site in the nation under consideration for high-level nuclear waste storage.
Schinhofen has long advocated for continued work on Yucca Mountain, which is in Nye County.
“This is not just about Nye County it’s about Southern Nevada and the whole state,” Schinhofen said.
He believes state officials and the Nevada delegation need to stop putting their fingers in their ears on the issue and let it go forward to a hearing on the scientific reports about the project.
“Until we move forward in the licensing process, we’re going to have their guys, our guys and everybody is going to give their opinions, but the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] and the Atomic Safety Licensing Board are the two entities in this country tasked with nuclear safety, they are the ones who should hear the science, hear the contentions and ultimately decide whether it can be constructed or operated safely,” he said.
He said the state and federal officials are trying to scare everyone with concerns about possible leaks and the safety of transporting the waste.
“People have in their minds that this is green sludge on the back of a stake bed truck going down the highway bouncing around,” he said.
Schinhofen said, in reality, the waste is actually pellets stored in casks that will be put under 1,000 feet of rock at Yucca Mountain.
And as far as the transportation issue, he pointed out that nuclear waste has been transported around the country for 60 years without an accident.
Schinhofen also said that nuclear material is already being stored at two sites in Nye County and nothing going into Yucca Mountain would be "hotter" than what is currently being stored at Area 5.
One of the reasons Schinhofen supports the idea is because of the money the federal government has said it will give to local governments that will be impacted, which includes Clark County and Nye County. Plus, there would be money for the state.
He said Nye County is a poor county that could use the money for emergency services, services for seniors and other programs cut because of budget shortfalls in recent years.
Dan Schinhofen, Nye County Commission chairman