How safe will nuclear waste really be?
It was no surprise Friday when a federal appeals court rejected Nevada's arguments against building a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain.
The decision leaves in place the Bush administration's plan to store 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste, mostly from spent reactor fuel from the nation's commercial power plants, at the Nevada facility.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that in the same ruling, the court ordered the government to develop a plan to protect the public against radiation releases beyond the 10,000 years it has already promised.
The question is are we sure that the Department of Energy plans will, indeed, protect the public from radiation exposure for the next 10,000 years? Is there sufficient science to be able to prove such a statement at this point? Would 20,000 years be enough?
This radioactive material is something that the National Academy of Sciences has told us can be dangerous for up to 300,000 years.
Las Vegas, one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country, is only 90 miles away from the Yucca Mountain facility. An innocent Southern Utah population that was unconscionably drenched with nuclear fallout during the detonations at the Nevada Test Site sits just a little farther downwind. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 15,000 people nationwide were killed by fallout from the Nevada Test Site.
What disasters -- manmade or natural -- can this storage site handle? How can we truly know what kinds of weapons or other dangers will be in place 10,000 years from now? Worst of all, if something goes wrong at Yucca Mountain, will this corner of the planet even be habitable 10,000 years from now?
Excuse us for being suspicious, but we've been down this road before.
That's why we strongly support our neighboring state and encourage our state and local leaders to join in the fight against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issuing a license for the Yucca Mountain facility.