Yucca Mountain nuclear dump

Tribe asks why waste piling up

by Mary Martinez
Las Vegas Sun, April 8, 1996

When Ian Zabarte of the Western Shoshone tribe looks at Yucca Mountain, the proposed high-level nuclear waste dump for the nation, all he sees is politics.

Zabarte has tracked more than 20 bills introduced in Congress over the past year, some trying to make Southern Nevada the solution to 50 years of nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power activities.

"This waste dump is not for any other purpose than political," he told those gathered at the Nuclear Abolition Summit at UNLV.

What Zabarte and others wonder is why the nuclear industry keeps producing nuclear wastes. "When my bathtub is overflowing, the first thing I do is turn off the water before I clean up the mess," he said.

While Nevada officials as well as 24 Indian tribes have fought to keep the national dump out of Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, others such as the Mescaleros and the Navajos are exploring options for storing nuclear waste on their reservations.

A recent letter written to General Atomis in San Diego from the Navajo Tribe in Arizona explores storing nuclear waste and developing a nuclear research center and nuclear power plant," said Grace Thorpe, president of the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans in Prague, Okla.

"I didn't like the idea when I heard about it," she said.

The Department of Energy can offer money for homes, schools and hospitals, but put the land, animals and plants at risk, she said.

Thorpe, whose Indian name of No Ten O Quah means "Woman with the Power of the Wind Before the Storm Hits," said it is time all tribes break the nuclear chain.

As a WAC corporal in New Guinea when the two U.S. bombs fell on Japan, Thorpe said, "We were all delighted. The war was over."

Then she went to Japan and saw the devastation. "When you see something like that, it's too horrible," she said. "We did this to all these people."