No deal for Yucca Mountain

The battle against Yucca Mountain ain’t over yet

Frankie Sue Del Papa is Nevada’s Attorney General.

My parents taught me to get all the education I could, and that nearly anything can be accomplished with education and hard work. They also taught me that science and logic—good, sound, critical thinking—lead to good, sound solutions to problems.

That’s why the President’s decision to give Yucca the green light is so disturbing. He told us his decision would be based on science, not politics. We had reason to believe him.

Now that the Senate has voted, and President Bush has signed the Yucca bill, nuclear industry advocates want the world to believe Nevadans have given up on the issue and suggest that we negotiate a compensatory “deal.”

That appalls me. To suggest that Nevadans knuckle under and negotiate is not acceptable. How can we possibly estimate what compensation is due? What is an adequate exchange for a lethal, open-air container farm on a seismic ridge?

We’re not going to make a deal. It is too soon for Nevadans to be discouraged. We have five lawsuits in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., one in Nevada state court, and one in the U.S. District Court here in Nevada. Each is strong on the legal merits, and any one of them can halt the proposed waste disposal project.

I have faith in our judicial system. Politics doesn’t usually play in the courtroom like it does in Congress. In court, the President can’t make promises. Energy Secretary Abraham can’t pull strings.

No one wants nuke waste in his or her backyard. Still, the Department of Energy proposes to move it from backyards around the nation, through front yards across the nation, to place it on our patio.

According to the Government Accounting Office, the DOE has initiated 80 major projects in the past 20 years, yet completed only 15. None had major opposition, unlike the Yucca proposal.

Should we give the DOE control of the single largest, most dangerous and most expensive government project in history?

I am positive that this fight is the right thing to do—and that it is winnable.

Nuclear-generated electricity is separate from the issue of waste disposal. Had we shut down every source of nuclear waste 10 years ago, we’d still have to deal with it for thousands of years. The genie is out of the bottle, and we must manage it.

So, while we’re pressing our arguments in the courts, I urge people to resist any inclination toward a blood-money payment for Yucca Mountain and to promote the solution advocated by former Sen. Richard Bryan—on-site dry-cask storage. It is safe. It won’t have to travel the nation’s arteries, and we’ll have time for science to figure out what we may securely do with those fuel rods.

The bottom line is that Yucca Mountain isn’t what people say it is. It isn’t science. It isn’t safe. It isn’t a mountain. It isn’t even a storage site so much as it is a plan for a procession of poisonous waste past America’s school bus stops.

It’s unsafe at any price.