John L. Smith On Yucca Mtn., The Super Bowl And City Council Mayhem


Associated Press

Recent news that the U.S. Department of Energy had secretly shipped 1,000 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada ignited outrage from Nevada’s elected officials. 

Nevada leaders said it’s another sign of bad faith by the DOE in a state that has long fought against the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. 

And John L. Smith has followed the Yucca Mountain fight for almost as long as he's been a reporter in Nevada. He’s a regular contributor to State of Nevada.

“I’m not sure I would call it secret so much as sneaky,” Smith said.

Smith said federal officials knew that plutonium was eventually going to be sent here. 

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“Nevada officials vowed to fight it and while they were getting ready to go to court," he said, "The wheels were rolling on the vehicle sending weapons-grade plutonium to the state.”

He is also not surprised by the reaction of Nevada's congressional delegation. 

“In Nevada, as you know, this is really a third rail political issue for most candidates and for all Democrats,” he said.

Smith said the basics of the Yucca argument have little to do with whether the waste is safe.

“The Yucca argument is this: Those who want it say it's scientifically safe to store," he said, "The other side of the issue and it’s the one that Nevada’s congressional delegation and our governor Steve Sisolak are arguing on a regular basis and that it’s not really about the science of it, what it really is about is about Nevada exercising its rights, not wanting this storage so close to what is really the economic driving engine in our state.”

He said the issue for many Nevadans is that since the Screw Nevada Bill, the project has been rammed down the state's throat and they want a say in what happens in the state.

Las Vegas City Council 

Former Congressman Ruben Kihuen is running for city council despite the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him.

“You would think he would be the proverbial dead man walking but the fact is, inside City Hall and inside city politics, it generally doesn’t take too many voters to get someone elected to a council seat,” Smith said.

He said it would take a few thousand votes to put Kihuen in office and additionally, although there is a strong push online for Kihuen not to run, Smith points out that he does have support in the ward.

“I think he still has plenty of people who supported him and despite his sexual harassment embarrassment in his only term in Congress,” he said.

Also, a recall effort is underway for Councilman Steve Seroka. The recall is connected to the Badland golf course and plans to turn the closed course into a housing development.

“I think they’re busy collecting signatures and I think they might be able to get this race on the ballot,” Smith said.

Smith said the recall effort is being orchestrated by Tommy White. He's the head of the Laborers Local 872, which Smith describes as a “very politically active and really pugnacious outfit.”

Super Bowl 

“Welcome to the double-edged sword of the expansion of sports betting in America,” Smith said of the first Super Bowl were legal sports betting was allowed outside of Nevada.

Nevada's overall gross handle was down but the sports books won more money than in the past, Smith said. That was not the case for New Jersey books, which lost money mostly because there were more Patriots fans than on the West Coast.

For the big game this year, Smith was at a sports book in New Mexico. He described the book as "quaint" something that was small compared to the gigantic super books of Las Vegas.

But despite its size, the book was full of excited gamblers both pros and amateurs. 

“As sports betting expands across the country, casino operators are going to be reminded that it is a pretty strong amenity to have. It attracts people and they come to party,” he said.



John L. Smith, contributor

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