By Launce Rake
Last week one of the men running for Congress in Nevada’s new 4th District announced that gee, maybe Nevada is the perfect place to dump thousands of tons of the most poisonous waste in the world.
Danny Tarkanian, who subtly plays off his relationship to dad and former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian by co-starring with a basketball hoop in his campaign ads, told the world that he’s okay with the nuclear industry sending in trucks and trains through Las Vegas and onto the leaky hole in the ground that is Yucca Mountain. Baby Tark made the comment during a KLVX debate in Las Vegas with his opponent, State Senator Steven Horsford.
Using the same financial acumen that has put him $17 million deep into bankruptcy, Tarkanian said the move would be a way of “diversifying the state economy.”
That’s the political world today. Some politicians want to diversify Nevada’s economy by building our clean-energy capacity and selling recreational tourism of our great outdoors. Others want to diversify our economy by trucking high-level radioactive waste by your front door.
The sprawling 4th District includes parts of urban Las Vegas and lots of rural Nevada. Tarkanian is doing well in rural Nevada. His comments might make residents of Lincoln County remember that they’ve already done their bit for a Nuclear America, as “downwinders” serving as guinea pigs for atomic testing through the ’50s and ’60s.
A short primer on Yucca Mountain, the putative dumping spot for about 80,000 tons (and potentially much, much more) of the high-level radioactive waste produced by the nation’s 121 functioning and rapidly aging nuclear power reactors. This material, mostly spent fuel rods, is extremely dangerous and hot, literally and radioactively, and will be for thousands or millions of years. Bypassing the scientific process and motivated by the pure love of the nation’s multi-billion-dollar nuclear industry, Congress in 1987 passed the “Screw Nevada Bill” that dictated that, leaky or no, Yucca Mountain would be the dumpsite for the waste.
Since then Nevada has waged a fight – a successful one – to block the Yucca Mountain dump. The elected leaders have not only been motivated by well-placed concern about the soundness of Yucca Mountain itself as the dumpsite, but by the concern that a shipment accident in Las Vegas would be a small-scale Chernobyl. The transit routes for the waste go on rails and roads right through the heart of the urban area.
Such a scenario would not be good for “diversifying the state economy,” unless he means that destroying Las Vegas would diversify the economy by eliminating those pesky resorts.
Baby Tark’s comments represent an outstanding reversal for any Las Vegas politician. It’s time to remember that making Southern Nevada a dump for the nation’s failed nuclear energy program would be a very bad idea for our economy and our neighborhoods.