Baby Tark: Make Nevada National Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground

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.

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Launce Rake
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  • Tony P
    October 15, 2012, 10:09 am

    It seems the big nuke scare perpetuated by the casino industry snd promoted by Harry Reid and the also paid for media never ends. The nuke highway through Las Vegas is an illusion that will not happen. The repository (billions of tax payer money) is located in the best spot in the country for the much needed storage facility. Reports it could leak into the ground water within 10,000 years is rediculous considering nukes were detonated under ground not far from the storage area. The risks (small) should be weighed against the economic/ecologic gains (large)and not by paid for political/media entities with their own agenda.

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  • James M.
    October 15, 2012, 9:07 am

    This article should be labeled as a comment piece. This is one person’s argument as to why Nevada shouldn’t hold nuclear waste. this is propaganda for an agenda, not journalism. A REAL journalist would also point out that the containers for shipping the waste are incredibly safe and can withstand rocket sleds being fired at them (YouTube the videos to see what I mean), and that a meltdown killing people is plainly something said as a scare tactic. In actuality, it’s nearly statistically impossible to have happen. They did all the research on this in the late 1980s and 1990s. Look it up.

    Tarkanian isn’t wrong in the fact that it would bring lots of money to our state, even though I hate to say he’s right about anything. Personally, I think the guy is scum. Back to the topic.

    Charge the responsible parties a TON of money to store it here, and maybe our economy wouldn’t be so bad here in Nevada. Also, the nation’s “failed” nuclear program was only failed by fear thanks to bad journalism like this article.

    Many nuclear reactors have been in operation for decades without incident. The fears of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents have made nuclear power seem unsafe thanks solely to the media, when other countries have been using it for decades without incident.

    Do yourself a favor. Do some research on the research that has been done. Don’t base your opinion on this poorly written article.

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  • M.R. Heeman
    October 15, 2012, 3:09 pm

    According to the R/J’s reporting of the exchange on nuclear waste, Tarkanian approves of using Yucca as a nuclear reprocessing site – not as long term storage.

    From 10/11/2012

    http://www.lvrj.com/news/horsford-tarkanian-trade-personal-blows-in-congressional-district-4-debate-173825701.html

    “On the issue of nuclear waste, Tarkanian said he would support using underground tunnels at Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste reprocessing. He also said if that isn’t possible, he would support using the tunnels for secure data storage or military training uses.”

    Most European nations and waste consortiums use reprocessing of nuclear waste as stated by the World Nuclear Association:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf69.html

    “Over the last 50 years the principal reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused uranium and plutonium in the used fuel elements and thereby close the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% more energy from the original uranium in the process and thus contributing to energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.”

    Tarkanian is much more right than wrong in suggesting Yucca as a reprocessing site – or the other uses Yucca could be used for after pumping decades and billions into it.

    No, Launce, Tarkanian did not state using Yucca as a storage site, but for a process many other nations and extra-national consortiums have successfully promoted for nuclear safety, extra energy uses for the same material, JOBS, long term tax revenue to NV and other benefits from the reprocessing of nuclear waste.

    Other than that untrue and intentionally wrong take – the rest seems the usual enviro-snark with more insults and distractions toward Republicans put into the ‘yellowcake’.

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  • john young
    October 17, 2012, 3:32 am

    Where was the photograph taken for this article. I cannot find the caption or credit anywhere.

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