LAS VEGAS – Nevada stepped up its campaign against burying nuclear waste under one of its state's mountains on Monday, with Gov. Kenny Guinn vetoing a presidential order and activists readying a national lobbying campaign.
"Let me make one thing clear, crystal clear in fact," Guinn said. "Yucca Mountain is not inevitable."
A crowd of more than 200, including students from local elementary schools, gave Guinn a standing ovation as he delivered brief comments at UNLV before boarding a plane to Washington.
The governor included a plea for funding, asking Nevada's residents to each donate $1 or more to the lobbying campaign
"We will expose the Department of Energy's dirty little secrets about Yucca Mountain," Guinn said, adding that 123 million Americans have not been told of the danger of transporting nuclear waste through their neighborhoods.
In February, President Bush picked Yucca Mountain as the place to entomb up to 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel that will remain radioactive for 10,000 years. The site is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
A veto of Bush's order -- signed Friday by Republican Guinn -- was to be submitted to the House and Senate on Monday.
Guinn's veto was allowed under rules Congress wrote for developing a national nuclear waste dump. Congress will have the final say, however, and a vote on whether to override Guinn is expected before August.
Opponents of the Yucca Mountain plan were organizing a coast-to-coast lobbying campaign against an override vote.
Opposition to the project is overwhelming in Nevada.
"Nuclear energy can be a good thing," Earl McGhee, a 74-year-old retiree, said from his home in Amargosa Valley, less than 15 miles from Yucca Mountain. "But if it's mishandled, it's a bad thing. A longtime bad thing."
The opposition's lobbying effort is being directed by two former White House chiefs of staff -- Democrat John Podesta, who worked for President Clinton, and Republican Kenneth Duberstein, who worked for President Reagan.
The campaign is to include television ads targeting lawmakers in races that could swing on votes from environmentalists.
Spent nuclear fuel has accumulated for decades at power plants and defense facilities in 34 states, as lawmakers debated whether and where to establish a national repository.
Opponents of the Yucca Mountain project, led by environmentalists and Nevada's congressional delegation, are focusing their lobbying effort on the Senate, considering it almost certain that the Republican-controlled House will side with Bush.
Nevada's campaign will focus on lingering questions about the safety of the Yucca Mountain site and fears that the thousands of truck and train trips it will take to haul the waste across the country will lead to accidents and potential radioactive spills.