Yucca Mountain: Dead or Alive?

A federal court this week ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must continue its licensing review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in the Nevada desert.  However, Senator Reid and the Obama administration remain opposed to the waste site, and a "blue ribbon" panel suggested that nuclear energy plants could find other alternatives to the disposal site, including keeping waste in the states where it is generated. 

Although Nevada does derive some of its electricity from nuclear sources, there are no nuclear power plants in the state.  Many Nevadans have opposed the Yucca Mountain waste site because Congress cancelled the review of two alternative sites in Washington and Texas on political grounds, essentially shouldering the Nevada desert with an unfair burden.

Although prospects currently look good that nuclear energy generators will not get their way in the Nevada desert, I try to remind myself that the problem of nuclear waste is long-term, and the political dynamics currently delaying the industry's access to Yucca Mountain can change in a decade.  I am also reminded that nuclear energy, although "clean" in regards to greenhouse gas emissions, leaves a toxic trail of its own.   If communities are not comfortable living with the by-product of nuclear energy, it is not fair to dump it on the rural and wild landscapes of the desert.  In 1988, another remote desert valley in California was targeted for nuclear waste disposal.   We have a history of viewing this peaceful landscape as a place to forget bad memories. 


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