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Nuclear Rush in Nevada

Friday, April 8, 2005; Page A24

In his March 27 op-ed, George F. Will favored the dangerous plan to bury the nation's high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

The 1983 Nuclear Waste Policy Act envisaged comparing the viability of nine potential sites and ultimately selecting two sites, one in the West and another in the East. Not surprisingly, as candidate localities began to discover the costs and risks of custodianship, political maneuvering began to shorten the list. By 1986 the list was down to three Western sites where rigorous scientific studies of each were supposed to have enabled an informed comparison. By 1987, however, only Yucca Mountain remained, and the government never did the required science to consider even one alternative site.


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Without the science, we don't know what we don't know, but Yucca Mountain already has proven less geologically stable than we assumed. One of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Las Vegas, is only 90 miles away. Nevada has no nuclear power plants, and radioactive waste will be shipped from 103 nuclear facilities in other states, mostly in the East. Because of its extreme radioactivity, nuclear waste must first spend five years in a cooling pond at the reactor site of origin before it can be transported. Shipments to Nevada will create a web of plutonium transport routes, increasing the potential targets for terrorists.

Paradoxically, the political pressure to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain has increased. The Energy Department faces billion-dollar lawsuits by the nuclear industry to compensate nuclear power plants for storing waste on site beyond a 1998 deadline that transferred the burden of storing nuclear waste to the federal government. The Bush administration is making the construction of nuclear power plants a cornerstone of its energy policy, but it seems to have lost sight of many quality assurance problems, including retaliatory action against whistle-blowers, and transportation vulnerabilities.

While the United States must find a permanent solution for disposing of nuclear waste, the process must be scientifically sound and transparent. In the meantime, dry-cask storage offers a medium-term storage solution that would contain nuclear waste at facilities safely for 100 years.

LEONOR TOMERO

President

Lawyers Alliance for World Security

Washington

George F. Will's column was on target. I agree both with the logic of that site and his assessment of the hypocrisy of state residents in challenging its selection. The federal government spent billions to employ Nevadans in the construction of that site.

The nation needs this site. Americans everywhere need to get on the bandwagon and support it.

BOB OLSON

Annapolis


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