Titus answers

As we reported earlier, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois—whose state contains a half-dozen nuclear power plants—argued in an essay in a Capitol Hill newspaper that by shutting down the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project for power plant wastes in Nevada, President Obama is violating federal law that instructs the dump “shall” be built (“Nuke advocate attacks Obama,” RN&R, April 17).

Nevada's U.S. Rep. Dina Titus came back in a subsequent edition of the Hill, charging that what should have been a scientific selection process for the dump was tainted by political interference.

“What started decades ago as a law authorizing the study and selection of two geological depositories suitable for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel transformed into politics at its worst,” Titus wrote. “With the passage of the ‘Screw Nevada' bill in 1987 … the goal shifted from how to find the best site for storage to how to make the Yucca site adequate. As the years passed, billions of dollars were wasted, and the misguided Yucca project changed from being a geologic depository to a man-made structure with barriers erected to attempt to mitigate the tectonic fault lines that run directly under the mountain, threatening the geohydrology of the area with leaking radioactive waste. The original plan was ill-conceived, and studies conducted over the past few decades clearly illustrate the dangers and costs associated with the project.”

Titus also wrote that “Lake Mead, Red Rock National Conservation Area, Tule Springs archeological site, Desert Wildlife Refuge and numerous other attractions” could be threatened by the dump. She didn't really address Shimkus's assertion that the law is not being followed.

Nevada has no nuclear power plants. A detailed account of the “Screw Nevada” legislation can be found in “Screw Nevada,” RN&R, July 21, 2011.