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Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty talks about gaming and Yucca Mountain in Vegas visit


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who is evaluating a run for president in 2012, said today he would be willing to reconsider whether Yucca Mountain is a suitable site for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste.

Pawlenty, in Las Vegas to meet with local Republicans, also said gambling has a “corrosive” effect on some people’s lives, but that legalized gaming is a local issue that should not be under the control of the president or federal government.

Pawlenty was interviewed on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program.

Nevada is an early caucus state for the Republican presidential primary next year. Former GOP Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is considering a run as well, won the Nevada caucus in 2008.

Asked about Yucca Mountain, Pawlenty acknowledged a comment in 2002 that he wanted Yucca Mountain to open as a nuclear repository to handle waste from Minnesota. But circumstances have changed since then, including the question of seismic activity around the Nevada site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. There is also a question about groundwater flows at the site, he said.

“We need to have a safe, permanent facility to house our nuclear waste in this country or somewhere else,” Pawlenty said. “It appeared in 2002 that that would probably be Yucca Mountain, but some things have changed since then. And I continue to believe we need to solve the problem and have a repository for our waste.

“I think in the wake of Japan, all I’m saying is we should step back and make sure we have this properly calibrated,” he said. “But we need to have a federal repository. Now whether that is Yucca Mountain or not I’m willing to review.”

Ralston also asked about Pawlenty’s criticism of gambling in 2003, which the former two-term governor said destroys people’s lives. Ralston noted that Pawlenty was holding events on the Las Vegas Strip during his visit.

“Clearly gambling has a corrosive effect on some people’s lives, clearly it does, you can’t deny that, I mean of course it does,” Pawlenty said. “But this isn’t a matter for the president or the federal government to decide. Each state, each locality can decide, based on its history, its economy, its people, its priorities, what’s best for them.”

Pawlenty said he has “enjoyed a game” of blackjack, three card poker and slots in his life but that for some people gambling is a serious problem.

“But this is not for the federal government to decide,” he said. “And what is right for Nevada may be different than what is right for Minnesota or what is right for Iowa.”

Pawlenty also talked about the need for “common sense, reasonable” reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as a way to get a handle on the federal government’s growing deficit.

For social security, there needs to be an increase in the retirement age for new participants in the program, and cost-of-living adjustments need to be based on need and not awarded automatically to all recipients, he said.

“Those two things are examples of common sense, reasonable, constructive solutions to real problems that I think we can get the country to support if we will lead,” Pawlenty said.

Audio clips:

GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty says Yucca Mountain may not be the best choice for a nuclear waste repository:

041911Pawlenty1 :16 for our waste.”

Pawlenty says he is willing to review whether Yucca Mountain is suitable:

041911Pawlenty2 :11 willing to review.”

Pawlenty says gambling has a corrosive impact on some people’s lives but that it is a local, not federal, decision:

041911Pawlenty3 :17 best for them.”

Pawlenty says the country’s entitlement programs need common sense reforms:

041911Pawlenty4 :08 if we’ll lead.”

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