Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Senator Successfully Keeps Nuclear Waste From Nevada
Intellectual Capital 30Mar00 N2
By Steve Sebelius
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- LDS Senator Harry Reid, a powerful Democrat from
Nevada, has been one of the most effective politicians behind the
effort to keep the U.S.' planned nuclear waste dump out of Nevada.
The dump, proposed for Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of
Las Vegas, for many years has continually been passed by both the
U.S. House and Senate,only to be vetoed by President Clinton. On
March 22nd, the bill was passed again by the House, following
approval by the U.S. Senate, and Nevada politicians paradoxically
The politicians have managed to increase the number of votes against
the proposal by 40% over the last vote in 1997. The increase means
that Congress is unlikely to be able to override the veto that
President Clinton has promised, allowing Nevada politicians to put
the issue to rest, at least for this session of the U.S. Congress. In
the House, Nevada politicians have 37 votes to spare.
The dump was first authorized by Congress in 1987, and the fact that
it is still not operating is, in many ways, astonishing, and a
tribute to Nevada politicians, especially Reid, a mild-mannered LDS
Church member who is know for behind-the-scenes political
ruthlessness. Reid, the Senate's minority whip, the number 2 position
among Democrats in the Senate, has been working against the bill
since February 10th. All Reid had to do to be successful was to loose
by a margin that would preserve a veto from override. The Senate vote
was 64-34, enough to preserve the veto by 2 votes.
The dump is a defining issue for Nevada politicians, one that can
make a difference between staying in office or loosing. In Reid's
last election, he pummeled his opponent, former GOP Representative
John Ensign merely because Ensign took money from dump supporters.
Ensign was opposed to the dump, the news that he got campaign
contributions from supporters was enough to sink his campaign.
But in spite of the success of Reid and fellow members of Nevada's
delegation to Congress, the dump may be destined to come to Nevada.
The state has just two Representatives in the House in addition to
its two Senators, which may not be enough influence in the long run
to keep out the dump. Meanwhile, nuclear waste from active reactors
is piling up quickly in states with larger delegations. And Nevada's
gaming industry, flush with cash and active in lobbying, may not be
much help because of their concerns with legislative assaults on
legalized gambling and threats of federal taxation.
Of course, now the big question facing Reid and the Nevada delegation
is who will be the U.S. President next year. Vice President Al Gore
is so far taken the Clinton administration stance that the decision
of where to put a dump should be decided by "science, not politics,"
which satisfies Nevada politicians, at least as long as science
doesn't say that Yucca Mountain is the best site for the dump. Texas
Governor and GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush hasn't taken a
formal position on the dump, but he has favored a nuclear dump in