Las Ve­gas girds for war with Trump

Ex-casino mogul says nu­clear waste in the cards for Yucca Moun­tain

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

The White House’s plan to re­vive a nu­clear waste dump at Ne­vada’s Yucca Moun­tain has pushed Pres­i­dent Trump into an all-out war with Las Ve­gas, as pow­er­ful casino own­ers and city eco­nomic lead­ers vow to fight the ad­min­is­tra­tion tooth and nail over the pro­posal.

Mr. Trump’s 2018 bud­get pro­posal calls for $120 mil­lion to restart li­cens­ing pro­ce­dures for the Yucca Moun­tain nu­clear waste repos­i­tory, which would be less than 90 miles from the Las Ve­gas Strip and would store roughly 77,000 tons of used nu­clear fuel that now sits at sites across the coun­try.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials ar­gue that they have an obli­ga­tion to find a per­ma­nent burial ground for that fuel and that it’s long past time to push back crit­ics and get the fa­cil­ity up and run­ning.

The pro­posal will face stiff re­sis­tance in Congress, es­pe­cially from law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing Ne­vada, but per­haps the tough­est op­po­si­tion will be from some of the same fig­ures with whom Mr. Trump worked while build­ing his busi­nesses in Las Ve­gas.

“The driver of our econ­omy is tourism, and what Yucca Moun­tain would mean is the stor­ing of 77,000 tons of nu­clear waste less than 90 miles from Las Ve­gas,” said Cara Clarke, as­so­ciate vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Las Ve­gas

Metro Cham­ber of Com­merce. “The Las Ve­gas econ­omy is over­whelm­ingly driven by tourism and visi­tors feel­ing con­fi­dent and safe com­ing to our com­mu­nity. We do all we can to pro­tect that.”

Ms. Clarke said the Cham­ber will be in Wash­ing­ton this fall and plans to raise its con­cerns over the Yucca Moun­tain pro­posal with ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional of­fi­cials.

“Any po­ten­tial ac­ci­dent or scare that could dam­age peo­ple’s view of Las Ve­gas or de­sire to come here to visit is a ma­jor con­cern to us,” she said.

The Cham­ber’s warn­ings of the dan­gers of Yucca Moun­tain echo those of the casino in­dus­try, which has made no se­cret of its plan to do ev­ery­thing in its power to stop the repos­i­tory — which has been de­bated in Wash­ing­ton for decades — from be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

“Any prob­lems with the trans­port of nu­clear waste to the site, or is­sues with its stor­age there, would bring po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences to the lo­cal, state and na­tional economies,” Ge­off Free­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Amer­i­can Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, said in a let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers. “The AGA stands with the many con­cerned cit­i­zens, small busi­ness op­er­a­tors and bi­par­ti­san mem­bers of Congress in staunch op­po­si­tion to any at­tempt to restart the repos­i­tory li­cens­ing process and will work tire­lessly to en­sure that ra­dioac­tive waste is never stored any­where near the world’s en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal in Las Ve­gas.”

Ne­vada state of­fi­cials, who are nearly unan­i­mous in their op­po­si­tion to Yucca Moun­tain, also have made eco­nomic con­cerns and po­ten­tial dam­age to the casino and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries a cen­tral pil­lar in their ar­gu­ments.

The state’s Nu­clear Waste Project Of­fice web­site in­cludes stud­ies on the po­ten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the Yucca pro­posal. If even one ho­tel and casino project chooses not to break ground in Ne­vada be­cause of the repos­i­tory, of­fi­cials said, the state would lose more than 14,000 jobs and at least $500 mil­lion in rev­enue to lo­cal and state economies.

The fig­ures come from re­search con­ducted by the Ne­vada Agency for Nu­clear Projects.

Al­though it is dif­fi­cult to project how much, if at all, Las Ve­gas busi­nesses would suf­fer be­cause of the Yucca

Moun­tain fa­cil­ity, gam­bling an­a­lysts say it’s fool­ish to believe out­side fac­tors can’t af­fect the Strip.

“I wouldn’t say it’s in­vul­ner­a­ble. There are things that can de­ter peo­ple from com­ing to Las Ve­gas,” said David Schwartz, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Gam­ing Re­search at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada-Las Ve­gas.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t di­rectly ad­dressed the pos­si­ble eco­nomic fall­out from the Yucca Moun­tain site, though it will be dif­fi­cult to avoid that topic as the pro­posal moves for­ward.

For now, of­fi­cials say, the gov­ern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to find a place to store nu­clear waste and that con­tin­u­ing to keep the hazardous ma­te­ri­als at tem­po­rary sites across the na­tion is dan­ger­ous and ir­re­spon­si­ble.

“We have a mo­ral and na­tional se­cu­rity obli­ga­tion to come up with a long-term so­lu­tion, find­ing the safest repos­i­to­ries avail­able. I un­der­stand this is a po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive topic for some, but we can no longer kick the can down the road,” En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry told law­mak­ers in June as he made an im­pas­sioned plea for Yucca Moun­tain.

“That is the proper place for longterm stor­age,” he said.

Leg­is­la­tion passed in 1982 re­quires the gov­ern­ment to find a per­ma­nent spot for used nu­clear fuel. After con­sid­er­able progress and bil­lions of dol­lars in tax­payer money spent, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2011 for­mally scrapped Yucca Moun­tain, blam­ing the es­ti­mated cost of $100 bil­lion.

It’s be­lieved that Harry Reid, a pow­er­ful Ne­vada Demo­crat, used his con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence as Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader to kill the project.

With Mr. Reid now re­tired, other Ne­vada law­mak­ers are try­ing to fill the gap and pro­tect their state’s in­ter­ests from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s plan.

“Ne­vada will not serve as our na­tion’s nu­clear waste dump,” Sen. Dean Heller, Ne­vada Repub­li­can, said this sum­mer.


GROUND ZERO: The Yucca Moun­tain repos­i­tory would store roughly 77,000 tons of the na­tion’s most ra­dioac­tive waste less than 90 miles from Las Ve­gas Strip. Ne­vada state of­fi­cials who op­pose the fed­eral pro­posal cite eco­nomic con­cerns and po­ten­tial dam­age to the casino and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries.



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