Nevadans Against Yucca Mountain… Or Are They?

Nicolas Loris /

It’s time for the NRC to listen to the collective voice of Nevada.”

Ah, Harry Reid, you couldn’t be more right. The Senate Majority Leader again voiced his anti-Yucca Mountain sentiments a few days ago, claiming the dump is wrong and saying, “We will not accept it.”

Reid made these statements after 4,000 Nevadans filed a petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and Nevada officials “contend nuclear waste cannot be safely stored at Yucca Mountain for the thousands of years envisioned by the government.”

First of all, only 4,000 petitioners? According to the Census Bureau Nevada’s population in 2006 was about 2.5 million. That means .16%, less than two tenths of the population signed this petition. Granted, the bright lights of Las Vegas are alluring, but if Nevadans truly cared about shutting down Yucca Mountain as much as Harry Reid says they do, they could build a case stronger than 4,000 petition signers.

Seriously, people in Seattle, Washington were more riled up for a 20-cent grocery bag fee. Only one month after Seattle’s Mayor signed the ordinance to take place in January, The Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax formed and gathered more than 20,000 signatures to have the fee repealed.

Without question the voices of Nevadans deserve the right to be heard, but what I’m hearing is that Yucca Mountain is not an issue for the majority of Nevada. With a nuclear energy push on the horizon, resolving the issue of managing spent nuclear fuel will be critical to the sustainability of nuclear power in the United States. While the entire system needs an overhaul, a geologic repository remains vitally important to used fuel disposal. The Department of Energy (DOE) did their part in submitting a license application to the NRC, but Members of Congress can take action; specifically they should:

• Replace the artificial 70,000-ton cap on Yucca Mountain with a more scientifically calculated cap.
• Acknowledge that the current regime for managing spent nuclear fuel is broken and engage in a process to develop a new ratio­nal, market-based approach to managing spent nuclear fuel that can support a broad expansion of nuclear power in the United States.

Secondly, I’m not sure if Nevada officials are the most qualified to determine that nuclear waste cannot safely be stored at Yucca Mountain. I’d leave that to the experts that say there is no scientific, safety, or technological reason that prevents waste from coming into Yucca Mountain. For more on this, you can read the DOE’s environmental impact study or the U.S. Geologic Survey, Yucca Mountain as a Geologic Repository.

Senator Reid is right. We should be listening to the collective voice of Nevada; we should be listening to those concerned about gas and energy prices, taxes, education and jobs rather than the minority that wants to stop the development of clean, safe and affordable energy.