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Bullfrog County, Population 0


Aerial view of Yucca Mountain.

Pop quiz: start thinking of as many counties in Nevada as you can off the top of your head.

Did you think of Bullfrog County?

Nevada had one -- for two years.

It was an early attempt to stop Yucca Mountain from becoming the nation's nuclear waste repository.

Nobody lived there, and the county seat was in Carson City -- 300 miles away.

Richard Bryan signed the bill creating the county in 1987.

Then, about two years later, it ceased to exist. Why?

"It was not an invitation to the feds to come and locate this [here], but just kind of a contingency plan," Bryan explained to State of Nevada.

Bryan said the idea was to be prepared if Yucca Mountain was chosen as the place for the nation's nuclear waste.

He said the Legislature passed the Bullfrog County bill before the infamous 'Screw Nevada' bill was passed by Congress. That bill made Nevada the nation's designated nuclear waste repository.

But before that, several places around the country were considered.

The idea behind Bullfrog County was to create a new county and charge extremely high taxes to make revenue on something no one wanted, but many were afraid was going to be shoved down the state's throat.

Bryan said he had private reservations about signing the bill into law, but he thought it might do something -- if the waste came.

"I was kind of enamored with the idea that if this doggone thing came our way, maybe this mechanism might work," he said.

Although it may have sounded like a good idea at the time, it did not take long for a court to call it unconstitutional.

"I signed it. It was challenged, and it didn't last for long," Bryan said. "Looking back at it, it did seem unlikely to be a successful effort."

Bullfrog County is long gone, but the idea of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is still around. In fact, subcommittee hearings on the dump site have restarted.

The idea the waste repository could make money for Nevada is still around, too. Some officials in Nye County support the idea of Yucca Mountain because they say it will bring tax money and jobs to the area.

Bryan calls those ideas "not well thought out."

"I do not think that Yucca Mountain will ever be a reality," he said.

The former senator and governor said the decision on where to put the country's nuclear waste needs to be done by consent, and states that have expressed interest in having the repository should be considered.​

Richard Bryan, former governor (1983-89) and senator (1989-2001) of Nevada

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)