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Proposed Nevada Nuke Rail to Draw Protest

December 4, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – It's a hearing on a proposal to build a small rail line, but it's expected to draw big protests today because the Caliente Rail Line would carry tens of thousands of tons of toxic nuclear waste. You had to sign up two weeks in advance to speak at this hearing, but that isn't stopping protesters from getting their message out.

Jane Feldman, conservation co-chair of the Southern Nevada Group of the Sierra Club, says conservationists and Native American tribal members are among those who will hold a clean energy rally outside the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) facility in Henderson. Feldman says as the nation shifts to a clean energy economy, it's looking less and less likely the repository will ever be built, so it makes no sense to spend money on train tracks to get the waste there. In 2006, the DOE estimated the cost of the proposed 300-mile rail line at about $2 billion.

"We don't need a railroad to a repository that's a bad idea. What we need is clean wind, and solar and geothermal."

The Department of Energy (DOE) reviewed five potential sites and identified Caliente as the preferred route because of its remote location and the reduced likelihood of land use conflicts. One land conflict that has not been resolved is with Native American tribes, who say the proposed rail line violates the terms of the Ruby Valley Treaty they have with the federal government.

While this new section of rail would be built in a remote part of the state north of Las Vegas, Jane Feldman says tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste will still end up going through the highly populated city, using existing rail lines, on the way to the proposed Caliente track.

"People are worried about how we should manage it, and managing it by shipping it thousand of miles to Yucca Mountain is not a good plan, if you want to minimize exposure of people, plants and animals to this incredibly toxic material that we've created."

The hearing will be held at the NRC Hearing Building, 3250 Pepper Lane, Henderson, Nev., at 9 a.m. The rally takes place at 8:15 a.m.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV