Dumping on Bush
A pro-John Kerry television ad produced by MoveOn.com and tailored to Nevada makes a claim that is not accurate.

The ad, which started running heavily last week, says: “It’s coming to Nevada—radioactive waste, headed for Yucca Mountain. Why? Because in 2000 George Bush misled Nevada. That’s right. After promising Gov. Guinn he’d veto legislation making Yucca Mountain a nuclear dump, George Bush personally approved the disposal of radioactive waste in Nevada.”

But Bush never promised to veto legislation making Yucca Mountain a nuclear dump. In fact, while some Democrats today claim Bush in 2000 promised to veto the dump, back then their leaders said he didn’t. Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid then criticized what he called Bush’s “weaselly words” and said his letter to Guinn was deftly crafted to avoid committing Bush to a veto.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan criticized Bush for not promising to veto the dump: “He has not said that he would veto the legislation that would jeopardize health and safety standards for Yucca Mountain.”

What Bush actually promised was to veto any attempt by Congress to make Yucca a dump before the scientific review process was completed and to veto any temporary dump at the Yucca site. Congress never enacted either of those measures, so Bush was never faced with a decision on vetoing them.

The U.S. Energy Department claimed to have completed the scientific review process in 2001, and Bush then approved the dump. There are, of course, substantial questions about whether the review was adequate or scientifically valid, but the MoveOn TV spot doesn’t make those claims. There are also questions about whether the site is safe, but that’s a subjective judgment, and again, MoveOn did not touch on those issues.

This, in its entirety, is candidate Bush’s Sept. 28, 2000, letter to Gov. Guinn:

“Dear Kenny, Thanks for your recent letter regarding temporary storage of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. As I’ve said before, I believe the best science must prevail in the designation of any high-level nuclear waste repository. As President, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site—either on a permanent or temporary basis—unless it has been deemed scientifically safe. The Department of Energy has not completed its impact study of Yucca Mountain and important questions of environmental protection and safety have not yet been answered. Therefore, I would veto legislation that would provide for the temporary storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. I also believe the federal government must work with the local and state governments that will be affected to address safety and transportation issues. Sincerely, George W. Bush.”

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...