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Nuclear Waste: Not in Our Neighborhoods

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Monday, April 1, 2002; Page A14

As a Nevadan and chairman of the Clark County Commission in southern Nevada, I object to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's plan to transport 77,000 tons of the nation's most toxic nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas [op-ed, March 26].

Transporting nuclear waste across the country magnifies the possibilities for a terrorist attack. More than 100,000 truckloads and trainloads of highly radioactive waste will travel through 43 states for 40 years just to dump the 77,000 metric tons of existing high-level nuclear waste. Every one of these shipments is a potential target for a terrorist.

The Energy Department is eager to point out its track record for safe shipment of waste. However, far more waste will be transported each year during the next 40 years than has been transported since the advent of nuclear power. In its own technical documents, the Energy Department admits that accidents and incidents of radiation release will occur during its proposed shipping campaign.

Most communities along the proposed transportation corridor are not aware of the immense cost of preparing for and responding to an incident involving high-level radioactive waste. The cost to Clark County public safety agencies just to prepare for the commencement of high-level nuclear waste shipments is expected to reach $360 million. Further, costs to the county government for personnel, planning, training and public outreach to prepare for incoming shipments is expected to reach almost $2.7 billion during the project's proposed 39 years of shipments. While Congress may provide some public safety funding to the 43 states through which the shipments will travel, costs to communities will far exceed any federal funds received.

A study of Clark County bankers and appraisers indicates that even without an attack or accident a property value loss of more than $500 million can be expected in the county's housing market, which is one of the most active in the nation.

In the end it will come down to a vote in Congress. Congress should place the interests of the millions of families who will be put at risk ahead of the interests of the Nuclear Energy Institute and other special interests and corporations. Congress should act to strengthen security at existing nuclear plants while continuing to study viable alternatives to long-term storage rather than trucking high-level radioactive waste through our neighborhoods.

DARIO HERRERA

Chairman

Clark County Commission

Las Vegas

2002 The Washington Post Company