by Benjamin Grove
Las Vegas Sun -- June 4, 2002

Washington -- A band of 70 celebrities led by former "M*A*S*H" star Mike Farrell today joined the fight against Yucca Mountain, one day before a Senate panel is likely to approve it.

"It's now or never, in some instances," Farrell said. "Now is the time to say (to Congress): It's time to do your job."

Farrell chatted with reporters in the Capitol today before planned meetings with six senators: Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Russell Feingold, D-Wis.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Stabenow and Leahy have said they support Yucca; the others are likely to oppose it.

Farrell brought a letter signed by 70 other personalities, mostly actors and musicians, including actors Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Edwards, Melissa Gilbert, Danny Glover, Camryn Manheim, Carl and Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Bradley Whitford and Farrell's former "M*A*S*H" co-stars Jamie Farr and Loretta Swit. Others on the list: singer and actor Harry Belafonte, singer Barbra Streisand and disc jockey Casey Kasem.

Farrell, who now stars in NBC's "Providence," said his opposition to nuclear power started 30 years ago, when he actively opposed the construction of a California nuclear plant. He has followed the Yucca issue largely in the media, he said.

Farrell said he decided to come to Washington to use his familiar face to lobby against the controversial Nevada nuclear waste dump on the eve of a Yucca vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The full Senate is expected to vote -- and likely approve Yucca -- next month.

Farrell said it took him only a week or so to enlist the help of fellow celebrities by e-mail, phone and fax. "These are just people but they happen to be celebrities," Farrell said. "For some reason, people seem to pay attention to celebrities."

Farrell, a longtime human rights and environmental activist, said he objected to Yucca, because he believes it is not a safe place to build a national repository for high-level nuclear waste. He also believes that shipping waste from nuclear plants and other temporary waste storage sites to Nevada risks accidents and terrorist attacks.

"A crash or terrorist attack involving even one of these shipments through any one of our communities could be catastrophic, yet the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain recommendation lacks a detailed plan for ensuring the safety of these shipments," the celebrities' letter said.

Farrell advocates securing waste where it is, mostly stored in cooling pools and in dry, above-ground casks at nuclear power plants. Nuclear industry officials say that is not a permanent solution, and point to a government promise to haul the waste away to Nevada.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., chatted with Farrell for a few minutes in a small office in the Capitol, thanking him for his help. The environmental group Public Citizen helped Farrell organize the trip.

Farrell said he hoped to talk to more senators, and planned to urge other celebrities to do the same.

"(Senators) are under a lot of pressure from the administration to go their way," Farrell said.

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