Sen. Reid confronts nuclear threat to Utah, Nevada

U.S. Senate Minority LeaderHarry Reid said Friday that nuclearwaste should never be transportedthrough Utah in the post-9/11 worldbecause “every train is a target forterror.””We should just leave the wastewhere it is in containers under andabove ground. We’ll save tens ofbillions of dollars that way,” Reid,D-Nevada, said before a tightlypacked crowd in the Hinckley CaucusRoom, which flowed out intothe Orson Spencer Hall corridor.In a press conference followinghis question-and-answer sessionwith the public audience, Reidaddressed questions regarding arecent scandal involving a governmentalpush to store 77,000 tons ofnuclear waste in Yucca Mountain.Some politicians, as well as theSalt Lake and Las Vegas Chambersof Commerce, were critical of thepush to bury the waste because ofits potential to seep into groundwater,but other forces, includingPresident Bush and Utah SenatorsOrrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, werepushing for the use of a supposedlydry Yucca Mountain.Reid described a memo from agovernmental geologist who reportedthe situation within Yuccawriting, “water, water everywhere.”According to the AssociatedPress, one U.S. scientist reported,”This is as good as it’s going to get.If they need more proof, I will behappy to make up more.”Reid said such e-mails, whichare essentially saying “there is notenough evidence, so we’ll makesome up” are criminal and he addedthat, in a rush to get the site up,the government overlooked thepublic’s health.He added that a criminal investigationis underway.”This is worse than the Enronstuff,” Reid said. “People aren’t go-ing to allow nuclear waste tobe hauled past their homes,schoolyards, businesses andchurches.”Reid said he planned to meetwith Gov. Jon Huntsman, whois opposed to nuclear wastecoming into or through Utah,but said it would merely bea social event. However, headded that the nuclear wasteissue “may come up.”Hatch and Bennett supportedBush’s efforts to burythe waste while U.S. Rep. JimMatheson stood alone in theUtah delegation in the fi ghtagainst Yucca storage.”It’s pretty obvious they[Bennett and Hatch] shouldhave helped us and didn’t,”Reid said.Reid said he has always supportedkeeping nuclear wasteout of Utah, but as long as thecountry uses nuclear energy,the process will always producenuclear waste.Nuclear TestingReid said there is no needfor renewed nuclear weaponstesting as other more practicaltechniques, such as hydrotestingand subcritical testing,have become available.Hydrotesting uses intensepressures and temperaturesto cause plutonium to behavelike fluids while subcriticaltesting carries out the nuclearprocess, but is halted beforedangerous “critical mass” isreached.Reid said these techniquesare sufficient, and added thathe is opposed to bunker busters.Religious RightReid is a member of theChurch of Jesus C hrist ofLatter-Day Saints and wasin town for Genera l Conference,but said he believesin separation of church andstate.”The religious right has becomepolitically Republicanorientedand is no longer subjective,”he said. “I’m happythat the First Presidency [ofthe LDS Church] don’t takesides and have issued a statementtelling the members notto. I’m glad, I just wish memberswould listen to whatthey’re saying.”Republican Majority”Absolute power tends tocorrupt absolutely,” Reid saidregarding the Republican victoriesin the 2004 election.However, he said, the degreeof the victory tends to be exaggerated.Reid also criticized SenateMajority Leader Bill Frist andHouse Majority Leader TomDeLay.”Think about what they’redoing in the House,” he said.”The majority leader hadthree censures in one year, sothey changed the rules…Nowin the Senate, they’re tryingto be a rubber stamp for thepresident and changing 217years of rules” in the processby destroying checks and balances.Middle EastReid recently returnedfrom a trip to the Middle Eastwhere he spent time with Palestinianand Israeli leaders.He expressed concern Fridayabout ties between the currentPalestinian leadershipand former Palestinian PresidentYasser Arafat.”I’m not sure the presentleadership of Palestine is farenough removed from Arafat,”he said.In terms of the Iraq War,Reid said, “Words can notdescribe what is going on inIraq. The devastation is tremendousand it will take decadesto rebuild.”He added that he is concernedbecause in the post-Jan. 30 election period, theIraqis are yet to form a government.However, Reid said, “Iraqis changing. It’s a long, slowprocess. We’re there, and itwould be a disaster for decadesto come for us to justwalk out of there.”[email protected]