The Corner

The Las Vegas Connection

One thing we have learned from Japan’s nuclear accident is the danger of storing spent fuel rods on the site of the reactors that created them, and the need for permanent storage solutions. So how does the New York Times manage to write an entire article about the issue of spent-nuclear-fuel disposal at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles from Las Vegas, and not delve more deeply into the relationship between the Las Vegas gambling industry and Yucca’s most influential opponents, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and NRC chairman Gregory B. Jazko, a former staffer of his? An offhand reference to Reid’s “supporters” does not do the subject justice.

Radiation strikes special fear in the gaming industry, dating all the way back to when Howard Hughes owned the Strip and thought he could buy politicians to stop nuclear testing at the Nevada test site. Forget about Chernobyl-style meltdowns. A minor, non-fatal radiation leak at the facility or in transit would — given the level of paranoia surrounding radiation – shut down the town as the suckers flee, possibly for months. And since the state has no real economy other than gambling, the economy would collapse. No wonder the entire state opposes Yucca.

According to a position paper from the City of Las Vegas (not to be confused with the Strip, but representative of the thinking): 

Public perception related to the fear of dangers connected to man-made radiation and exposure to nuclear waste could severely impact the tourism industry, as well as an already weakened real estate market. Commercial and home property value losses, particularly in the event of an accident, are a concern. Any news about the transportation of radioactive materials in Las Vegas could damage the reputation and economy of the city.

There are honest disagreements over environmental consequences of Yucca Mountain, but ignoring the issue of whether Las Vegas has veto power on the decision is poor journalism. My old boss (I was the Times’ Las Vegas stringer back in the 1970s) Wally Turner would be spinning in his grave. 

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