recent Associated Press story on our efforts to shut down the NSA in Utah got a lot of things right, except for the most important part. The article infers that a similar effort in Nevada to shut down a federal nuclear waste dump failed.

Getting fair treatment in the mainstream media doesn’t happen often. When it does, we like to point it out. But facts are stubborn things, and when they’re wrong, we point that out, too.

The problem with the story is the following section at the very end.

 The state of Nevada shut off water to the site of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas in 2002, after months of threats.

The project didn’t run dry because the Energy Department built a 1-million gallon tank and a small well for the site. Department officials said the stored water, plus 400,000 gallons stored in other tanks at the Nevada Test Site, provided time for scientists to continue experiments and design work at the site.

This implies, therefore, that shutting off water for the NSA would be ineffective.

This is simply not true. reported back in August how the state of Nevada used its permit process to create roadblocks for the NSA project until the feds finally gave up.

It reads:

In addition to these lawsuits, Nevada denied the DOE’s five applications for the use of water to construct and operate the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The federal government wanted to continue taking soil samples from the site despite all of the negative results it had already obtained.  To run the drill rigs necessary to take soil samples as well as other operations, the feds needed to pump 430 acre-feet of water to the area each year.  But state law governs the use of groundwater. So, the Nevada State Engineer rejected the applications on the basis that the intended repository was detrimental to the public interest.  Nevada still allowed DOE officials to use a limited amount of water at the site for showers, restrooms, and fire emergencies, but effectively blocked the drilling operation, slowing progress on the project to a crawl.

Plus, the Department of Energy filed suit against Nevada in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, arguing that federal law preempted state water law. The court ultimately sided with Nevada.

In its 2007 ruling, the court found that the issues presented by the DOE did not involve federal preemption of state water law.

In the U.S. District Judge’s opinion:

“The validity of Western states’ groundwater rights and the right to regulate water in the public interest is not a right to be taken lightly, nor is it a right that can cavalierly be ignored or violated by a federal agency.”  Regarding the federal preemption argument he wrote, “At present…the only public interest issue is whether state officials can be precluded from exercising their lawfully mandated duties, or whether a federal agency can run roughshod over a state’s rights or interest without specific authority and mandate to do the precise activities it wishes to do.”

In 2010, President Obama called it quits on the project eight years after President Bush and Congress officially approved the site. The Energy Department subsequently withdrew its application to the state of Nevada for access to water at the site.

If shutting off the water to a federal project is ineffective, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump would still be alive.

But let’s assume that the project hadn’t run dry. Even if they managed to build a one million gallon tank, it would not be enough to run the facility. In Utah, the NSA data center will require 1.7 million gallons of water to function each day, and it has to continue receive a fresh supply of water.

During a legislative hearing on the 4th Amendment Protection Act in Utah, Pete Ashdown, founder and CEO of Utah’s first independent and oldest internet service provider, XMission, stated that the NSA cannot reuse the water and recirculate it due to evaporation, making them reliant on the state to provide necessary water.

The fact is denying the feds water did work, and it will work this time, too.

TJ Martinell

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