Forget about a hot potato -- how about a radioactive hot potato?!
As reported by Jason Plautz in National Journal, "Two early voting states are on opposite ends of the Yucca Mountain divide." South Carolina -- the third presidential primary after Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire's primary -- stores a large amount of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at its many commercial atomic reactors, as well as at the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex. The powers that be in South Carolina have long been in favor of dumping its radioactive wastes on Nevada --at the long-targeted Yucca Mountain site -- even though the Silver State already suffered the ravages of four decades of full-scale nuclear weapons testing (both atmospheric, and underground, which also often leaked into the biosphere; sub-critical nuclear weapons tests still take place in Nevada), and has not one single atomic reactor within its borders.
But the Nevada caucus comes just days after the South Carolina primary in the presidential campaign. Republican presidential candidates are now trying to walk that tightrope, dangling above a mountain of radioactive waste 73 years high.
As Hannah Northey at E&E Daily has reported, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is keeping tabs on which Republican presidential candidates support the Yucca dump, and which oppose it. Members of the latter category are much more likely to receive his support, Sen. Heller had indicated.
As reported by Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is making his first presidential campaign swing through Nevada beginning today. Ironically enough, Rubio has stated he supports the Yucca Mountain dump targeted at Nevada, even though his state campaign chair -- Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson -- opposes it.
Rubio is Cuban American. Nevada's Latin American Governor, Brian Sandoval -- who formerly served as the state's Attorney General -- also opposes the Yucca dump, as do the vast majority of elected officials in Nevada. As AG, Sandoval fought the Yucca dump at the second highest court in the land, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The State of Nevada, in alliance with a coalition of environmental groups represented by NRDC's Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus, won a key legal challenge in 2004. The July 9, 2004 court victory sent the U.S. EPA back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations. The court-ordered re-write resulted in EPA admitting, in 2008, that high-level radioactive waste buried at Yucca would remain hazardous not for 10,000 years, but rather a million years.
In a Las Vegas Review-Journal op-ed entitled "Rubio puts politics before science on Yucca Mountain," Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, has taken Rubio to task for supporting the Yucca dump, against the consent of Nevada's people.