LAST CALL: Nevadans have license to be angry

Drivers in the US can buy license plates professing affection for just about anything - manatees, young lawyers, even the Shag (that's the South Carolina state dance, not Austin Powers' favorite past time).

Drivers in the US can buy license plates professing affection for just about anything - manatees, young lawyers, even the Shag (that's the South Carolina state dance, not Austin Powers' favorite past time).

A few folks blew their tops, however, over a mushroom cloud plate designed to raise money for a nuclear testing museum in Nevada. "The test site really was the primary battle ground of the Cold War," explained John Doherty, public information director of the Desert Research Institute, which will house the facility.

The Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation unveiled its contest-winning plate design at a press conference, but it did not get much attention until those offended began writing letters to editors.

"I think the whole thing is probably one of the worst ideas we've ever had,

said Kalynda Tilges, nuclear issues coordinator of Citizen Alert, who points out that Nevadans overwhelmingly oppose a high-level nuclear waste repository there. "It sends a horribly mixed message."

Doherty makes no apologies. "What other icon better represents the totality of everybody's awareness of what went on at the Nevada Test Site than the mushroom cloud?

he asked.

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