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Yucca’s future rides on senate race

Reno Gazette-Journal - If Harry Reid is no longer Senate majority leader after the election, Nevada will be in a much weaker position to stop the federal government from building the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste dump, the executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects contends.

"Our entire Nevada delegation has opposed Yucca, but we had no clout until Senator Reid became majority leader," said Bruce Breslow, a Republican and former Sparks mayor who was appointed head of the agency by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons. "Without a majority leader from Nevada, other states would have built an expressway to Yucca Mountain."

If Reid loses his race, no one else in the Nevada congressional delegation has enough seniority or leadership experience to be in line for powerful positions such as speaker of the House, or majority or minority leader in the House or Senate, Breslow said.

"If (Republican Rep.) Dean Heller was the majority leader, he could stop Yucca Mountain just as well as Senator Reid -- it's not about what political party you're in, it's about what position you have," Breslow said. "It's the clout of the position of majority leader that has prevented Nevada from being the country's nuclear dumping ground."

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., used to be chairman of the Republican Policy Committee -- the No. 4 leadership post on the GOP side -- but resigned from that role last year after revelations that he had an affair with the wife of a former aide.

With ethics investigations still hanging over his head, Ensign is not expected to be brought back into a leadership role, political analysts say.

Without a powerful member of Congress from Nevada, the Silver State would once again become vulnerable to a push from other states' lawmakers who want to send their nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, said Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The latest state survey on the issue, released last summer, showed that more than 58 percent of Nevadans oppose the Yucca Mountain dump, Breslow said.

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