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Congresssman's Yucca Mtn. Comments Ignite Flame Over Project

Yucca Mountain entrance
Issac Breekken/Associated Press

A comment by Rep. Cresent Hardy has re-ignited a discussion about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

There are two words that journalists love to bring up when interviewing Nevada politicians: Yucca Mountain.

In his open letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal  last Sunday, Congressman Cresent Hardy pointed out that it was indeed one of the first questions he was asked when planning to run for Congress.

While Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has spearheaded the effort to kill the nuclear waste repository 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but it just keeps coming up.

In the letter Hardy, while not necessarily stating he outright supports the project, he makes a strong case for why Nevadans should at least be open to negotiating the controversial topic, rather than it be something that is “forced” on the state. The pros of allowing such a project, Hardy said, could bring things Nevada so desperately needs, like, say, more funding for education, or more water rights from the Colorado River.

With Reid’s impending retirement in 2016, the question now looms on whether the Yucca Mountain issue will be revisited.  

The Nye County Commissioner and nuclear liaison Dan Schinhofen told KNPR’s State of Nevada that Yucca Mountain is the law of the land and it deserves to move forward.

“We believe Nevadans deserve a fair and open hearing on the safety issues of this,” Schinhofen said.

He says eight other counties around the state agree with Nye County on the issue. He believes Nevada could get direct funding, highway infrastructure and more water from the Colorado River water.

Long-time opponent to the project former senator and governor Richard Bryan strongly disagrees with the argument that Nevada would benefit from Yucca Mountain.

“The notion that somehow if we negotiated with the federal government that we would get a greater allocation of water is simply mythical, wishful thinking,” Bryan said.

He said the water allocation was decided years ago and no state will give up water to Nevada, especially because of the ongoing drought.

Bryan also said people have been having the conversation about the repository for the past 30 years and as far as he is concerned the case closed.  

“Yucca Mountain is not safe. Nobody is going to negotiate to compromise the state’s health and safety,” Bryan said.

For Schinhofen, it is about letting the science decide.

“Let’s have that conversation. Let the science be heard,” he said.  

Richard Bryan, chair, Nevada Nuclear Commission;  Dan Schinhofen, nuclear liaison, Nye County

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.