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[cdn-nucl-l] Utahns favor N-waste site - in Nevada
Posted on deseretnews.com on April 1, 2002 and at:
Utahns favor N-waste site - in Nevada
But 79% oppose temporary storage in Tooele County
By Donna Kemp Spangler
Deseret News staff writer
Utahns continue to say "not in my back yard" to a proposal to
store 10,000 tons of nuclear waste on Goshute tribal lands in Tooele
But they aren't nearly as adamant about storing that same waste in
their neighbor's back yard - at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
According to a recent Deseret News poll conducted by Dan Jones &
Associates, 52 percent of those questioned strongly or somewhat
supported President Bush's decision to permanently store nuclear waste
at Yucca Mountain, while only 24 percent were strongly or somewhat
Given that a Yucca Mountain waste facility might not be ready for
another 10 or 20 years, would Utahns support a temporary facility in
Tooele County? No way.
The poll found some 63 percent of those questioned were strongly
opposed to that idea and another 16 percent were somewhat opposed. That
79 percent opposition is down from the 84 percent who were opposed last
The Deseret News poll of 404 Utahns was conducted March 11-13, and
it has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Most disconcerting to nuclear waste opponents is the comparatively
high level of support among Utahns for Yucca Mountain.
"In general, it says to me there is a need for more education (on
Yucca Mountain), not only how it will affect the state of Utah but
whether it is really the right decision to solve the nation's nuclear
waste problem," said Steve Erickson, a Sierra Club lobbyist and longtime
opponent of nuclear waste disposal anywhere in the West.
Erickson believes Utahns' support for Yucca Mountain will begin to
erode as opposition to the project swells beyond Nevada's borders to
become a national policy debate. And that debate will become personal
when Utahns realize they stand in harm's way as the waste is shipped
through Utah to Nevada, he said.
A nationwide survey of 1,000 people found 47 percent supporting
the project and 47 percent opposing it. But when people were told waste
could be shipped through their state to get to Yucca Mountain, 61
percent were either "somewhat" or "much more likely" to oppose the dump,
the Las Vegas Sun reported last week.
The random telephone poll, taken March 14-17 by Ipsos Public
Affairs, an international polling company, has a margin of error of plus
or minus 3 percent.
On that same question, Utahns are also worried about the dangers
of shipping nuclear waste on railroad routes through the heart of the
state. The Deseret News poll found that 77 percent of those questioned
were very or somewhat concerned about the railroad shipment of nuclear
waste through Utah, while only 21 percent were not concerned.
Those shipments would happen with both the Goshute temporary waste
proposal and the Yucca Mountain proposal.
What to do with the nation's stockpile of nuclear waste has been a
national dilemma for decades as storage facilities at nuclear power
plants have neared capacity. Without a place to store the waste, some
power plants are looking at closing.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold hearings in April on a
proposal by a consortium of nuclear power utilities, called Private Fuel
Storage, to "temporarily" store the waste on Goshute lands for up to 40
years in anticipation that Yucca Mountain would eventually become the
permanent storage site.
Led by Gov. Mike Leavitt - and with support from Nevada - Utah
officials have fought the PFS proposal tooth and nail, arguing the
temporary facility with above-ground cannisters would undoubtedly become
a permanent repository.
Utah's congressional delegation has supported Leavitt's opposition
to the PFS proposal, but they have also supported the idea of a
permanent site at Yucca Mountain.
During the last legislative session, Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake,
revealed that Leavitt intervened to kill Davis' resolution that would
have expressed the state's formal opposition to Yucca Mountain.
But does that mean Leavitt supports Yucca Mountain?
"We have been supportive of finding a permanent solution," Leavitt
told the Deseret News. "We have a very strong stance on PFS . . . and we
believe the nation needs a permanent solution."
Leavitt's behind-the-scenes maneuver to kill the Yucca Mountain
resolution has come to the attention of Nevadans, who thought they had
an ally in their fight against nuclear waste only to find the governor a
A recent Las Vegas Sun editorial reminded that "Nevada has been a
good neighbor and sided with Utah in its efforts to prevent nuclear
waste from going there."
But it also chided Leavitt and the GOP Legislature for not
standing with Nevada. "It's not surprising to see some states shrink
from siding with Nevada on Yucca Mountain, but Utah looks bad - with all
that it has at stake in its own battle - for taking a pass on this
fight," the paper wrote.
Nevada officials are trying to build national opposition to the
project by publicizing the possible risks of having to transport the
high-level radioactive waste through 43 states.
Congress is expected to decide this summer if the government
should send 77,000 tons of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, 90 miles
northwest of Las Vegas.
Contributing: Jerry D. Spangler; Associated Press.