Top Yucca Foe Stays - For Now

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A Carson City judge has dismissed an attempt to remove the embattled head of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects. Bob Loux is the longtime head of the state agency fighting federal plans for a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

In a brief hearing Wednesday morning, Bill Maddox said the malfeasance complaint filed against Loux relied on a law which applies only to local and not state officials. Maddox concluded that he lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case. Loux has been under fire since it was revealed he gave 16% raises to himself and his staff, raises not authorized by the governor or contained in the budget.

Meanwhile, there's little doubt the controversy Loux has stirred up has given new life to the debate over the nuclear repository and the state's chances of beating it.

Loux was named Director of the Nuclear Projects office when it was created in 1985. He has spent his entire career focused on the nuclear waste repository. The sight of him sitting in court, however briefly, charged with malfeasance on a budgetary matter, could only cause cheer to those who favor the dump. And it's coming at a critical time, when the 4 year application process for the repository's approval is just beginning.

Opponents of the dump worry Loux's removal would rob the state decades worth of institutional knowledge of the issues involved. The man who brought the malfeasance suit, conservative activist Chuck Moth, says that wasn't the idea, but he wouldn't be sorry to see Loux go.

"My complaint with Bob Loux is that he's stifled discussion and debate over this issue and that's not right," says Moth. "Nevadans deserve to hear both sides."

The governor has already asked Loux for his resignation, but can't force it. The Nuclear Projects head can only be removed by the Nuclear Projects Commission or impeached by the legislature.

The Commission meets on the 23rd. The difficult decision on Loux's future is expected to be on the agenda.

The commission's chairman, former Senator Richard Bryan, is clearly conflicted on the issue. Bryan calls Loux a "terribly valuable resource", but says "on the other hand you can't defend what he did."