Thursday, May 29, 2008

McCain still backs Yucca plan

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: McCain still backs Yucca plan

Regulatory requirements must be met, presidential hopeful says


RENO -- Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Wednesday that he continues to support the creation of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain if all necessary requirements are met.

Stumping at a town hall meeting in front of about 600 supporters, McCain prefaced his pro-Yucca Mountain comments by telling the audience that he must sometimes "tell people what they don't want to hear."

"I support Yucca Mountain once it goes through all of the process that it needs to go through," he said, to some applause. "But I also support reprocessing" nuclear waste.

The country needs to do both, McCain said.

The Arizona senator said the Carter administration in the 1970s stopped the reprocessing of nuclear waste in the United States, even though it is done elsewhere in the world.

McCain also reiterated comments from Tuesday that he would push for an international facility where nuclear waste from around the world could be stored, "if it's possible to do that and reach some international agreements where we can do that."

On Tuesday, McCain told a crowd in Denver that such a facility could eliminate the need for Yucca Mountain. He did not repeat the comment in Reno.

He did not elaborate on the idea and did not speak to the media after the hourlong event at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.

McCain voted for Yucca Mountain as the site of a high-level nuclear waste repository in 2002, when the Senate overrode Gov. Kenny Guinn's veto of the site. The vote was 60-39.

McCain, who said he would battle to win Nevada in November, said the country must end its reliance on foreign oil by exploiting the country's natural resources but also by expanding the use of alternative energy sources, including solar and nuclear power.

"The U.S. Navy has sailed ships around the world for more than 50 years with nuclear power plants," he said.

He disagreed with one questioner at the meeting who said oil exploration should be allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One key to encouraging further oil exploration around the country would be to offer states such as California a larger share of revenue for favorable energy policies, McCain said. But states retain the right to determine what happens off their shorelines, he said.

The real answer to the nation's oil dependence is "batteries that will take a car 100 miles before they have to plug it in. It's with hybrids. It's with nuclear. It's with wind. It's with solar."

Solar is a particularly attractive technology in Nevada and Arizona, McCain said.

Much of the oil revenue goes to countries that don't like the United States, and some of it ends up in the hands of terrorists. The country's oil dependence is a national security issue, a climate issue and an economic issue, McCain said.

In remarks prior to taking questions from the audience, McCain said he would stop the spending spree that Congress has been engaged in over the past several years.

He said the United States is winning the war in Iraq, and he criticized Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, for not visiting the country to see what is happening firsthand.

"My friends, this is about leadership," he said.

McCain mentioned Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., only once, and as an afterthought. He mentioned President Reagan several times but did not mention President Bush.

The Nevada Democratic Party dismissed McCain's visit as an attempt to build support in a state he previously ignored. McCain came in third in the Nevada Republican caucus.

"He ignored Nevada during the presidential caucus, and it's hurting him now that he has no organization on the ground," said Kirsten Searer, deputy executive director of the Nevada Democratic Party.

After the meeting, McCain attended a fundraiser at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno, where he was met by a few dozen protesters. The lunch cost $1,000 per person. Lunch with a photo cost $2,300.

Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@review or 775- 687-3900.

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