His comments come after President Barack Obama has joined with most members of the state’s Congressional delegation to oppose the project. Obama has gone further by zeroing out funding for construction of the repository in his budgets for the past few years, and federal officials have been looking for other ways to use the unfinished site.
Both Nevada pundits stressed that the issue is not expected to be as prominent as it has been because Nevada’s economic woes will trump the nuclear waste site project. That is partly because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation have helped to starve it of funding.
Last week, Reid praised a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to delay ruling until December on whether to compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue licensing work on Yucca Mountain. Reid also moved recently to ensure that any new NRC chairman would continue to oppose giving Yucca a license to operate. Allison MacFarlane, who was confirmed as chairwoman by the Senate in June along with a pro-Yucca commissioner, has said Yucca Mountain is not geologically sound enough to be a permanent waste repository.
Ralston said there may be some sparring over Yucca with Obama’s camp seeking to paint Romney as a supporter of the project, but too not much. He also sees a possible similar effort in the race between Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R) for the state’s second Senate seat.
“They will likely try to make it an issue in the presidential race because Obama committed to stop it and essentially has,” Ralston said. “They may try to find things that Romney has said to try to make him look like he favors Yucca Mountain. They may try something like that in the U.S. Senate race as well.”
Yucca Mountain was a more high-profile issue when Reid was running for re-election in 2010 and when Bush was seeking office.
Both pundits also noted that there is a Yucca fatigue with voters because it has been an issue for 25 years.
Damore thinks Romney’s stance on Yucca is emblematic of his cautious political strategy where he seems to be unwilling to take definitive positions on specific issues for fear of alienating voters.
Damore added that Sharron Angle, who ran against Reid in 2010, used the same strategy and came up short in a state where voters are yearning for specific solutions. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate and is first in home foreclosures.
“He’s falling into the trap that Sharron Angle fell into,” Damore said. “Everybody knows what the problems are; you don’t have to point out the problems. It’s what are your solutions, and he hasn’t articulated anything.”
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