Nevada officials rally against Yucca Mountain repository

LAS VEGAS (The Associated Press) - May 28   

     Nevada officials rallied against plans for licensing a national
nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, while Republican presidential hopeful
Sen. John McCain said in Colorado that the repository might not be

     "I would seek to establish an international repository for spent
nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that
might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials," McCain,
R-Ariz., said in a Tuesday speech on international nuclear security at the
University of Denver.

     "It is even possible that such an international center could make it
unnecessary to open the proposed spent fuel storage facility at Yucca
Mountain," McCain said. He referred to the site 90 miles northwest of Las
Vegas where the Energy Department wants to store 77,000 tons of spent
nuclear reactor fuel and other highly radioactive waste.

     At an anti-Yucca rally at the Clark County Government Center in Las
Vegas, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed McCain's remarks. Reid said
McCain's voting record showed he favors the Yucca Mountain repository.

     "John McCain is on the wrong side of that issue," said Reid, the
Senate majority leader.

     The rally against the Yucca repository drew officials including Rep.
Jon Porter, R-Nev., former Sen. Richard Bryan, chairman of the Nevada
Commission on Nuclear Projects, other state and Clark County officials, and

     Organizers said they intend to circulate a petition asking the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission to reject an Energy Department application to build
and operate the planned repository.

     Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said she was prepared
to make legal challenges as soon as the Energy Department submits its
application next month. Cortez Masto said she believes the document will be
incomplete, and will fail to protect the public and the environment from
deadly radioactive materials.

     Allen Benson, a Yucca Mountain project spokesman, said the Energy
Department will submit a complete application for "very thorough and
rigorous review" by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

     "We look forward to participating in the NRC process," Benson said.

     In a call with reporters, McCain's senior foreign policy adviser,
Randy Scheunemann, said the idea of an international repository is only
practical in Siberia.

     "So when Senator McCain indicates a willingness to support the idea of
an international repository and because the United States controls in effect
the destination of some 75 or 80 percent of the spent fuel in the world ...
an international repository will not happen without U.S. support and will
not happen without a place to go," Scheunemann said.

     Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., have said they oppose building a Yucca Mountain

     Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said he welcomed McCain's comments about
steering nuclear waste debate away from Yucca Mountain and toward waste

     "I will be talking to Senator McCain a lot about that," Ensign said in
a call with reporters. "My belief is you don't need a repository, you need
to recycle the waste."

     Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., "welcomes any acknowledgment from the
McCain camp that Yucca Mountain is a failure and should be scrapped,"
Berkley spokesman David Cherry said. "But that does not mean she agrees with
this concept as an alternative."