As the Obama administration continues with its plan to shut down the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, two columnists last Thursday debated the issue of how to dispose of tens of thousands of tons of deadly nuclear waste. You know my position on this issue: anywhere but Nevada. However, the debate rages on.
My good friend and fellow Appeal columnist, Bob Thomas, wrote that he would like to dump our nation's nuclear waste into the Mariana Trench way out there in the Pacific Ocean. I like that idea. But then Bob went on to write that since it's not possible to use the Trench as a nuclear waste dump, our government should move ahead with the controversial Yucca Mountain project. That's where we part company.
"We have the waste and we have to do something with it," Bob wrote, adding that he believes scientists who argue that the earthquake-prone site just 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas is safe for nuclear storage. But just as many scientists think the site is unsafe; it's like choosing between expert witnesses in a courtroom. Who to believe?
Actually, my objections to Yucca Mountain are more emotional and political than scientific. Congress paid little attention to public opinion when it passed the infamous "Screw Nevada Bill" in 1987, deciding to investigate only one site for nuclear waste storage. Nevada is a wasteland and no one lives there, they reasoned. Well, those chickens have come home to roost.
Now we can screw Congress, and we should. Turnabout is fair play on this toxic issue.
And now I'll turn to a column by Professor Nicholas Tsoulfanidis, who teaches at UNR and the Missouri University of Science and Technology. "The opposition to the Yucca Mountain project by the Nevada congressional delegation should be no surprise, given the fact that the original decision to build the repository in Nevada came from Washington, without any consultation with the state," he wrote in Thursday's Reno Gazette-Journal. "Siting a repository must be based on the consent of the locality," he added, and I couldn't agree more.
In his June 14 column, the professor noted that Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada congressional delegation are solidly opposed to the Yucca Mountain dump project. I seriously question a highly dubious RGJ poll (the wording was misleading) on the issue that concluded that most Nevadans are open-minded on the issue.
Professor Tsoulfanidis recommended that the waste be buried at the Energy Department's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M. "It was built on time and on budget and has been receiving transuranic (nuclear) wastes since 1999," he wrote while observing - quite correctly, in my opinion - that "public acceptance" is the difference between WIPP and Yucca Mountain.
Nuclear waste storage is a states' rights issue, and no one can force us to accept nearly 70,000 tons of highly toxic nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain against our will. It's dangerous, we don't want it and the Feds can't make us eat our nuclear spinach even though they think it's good for us.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has consistently opposed the Yucca Mountain project.