Anybody still harboring hope that the decision whether to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain will be decided on scientific merits need only read this comment:
"In fact, the technical suitability of the site is less of a concern to Congress than the broader issue of whether the nuclear waste problem can be solved at an affordable price in both financial and political terms."
That statement was penned by an anonymous nuclear-industry contractor and attached to a supposedly "unbiased" report of the U.S. Department of Energy on Yucca Mountain, according to an article by the Las Vegas Sun.
Ivan Itkin, director of the DOE's Radioactive Waste Management Office, realized the note was inappropriate and had it removed. "When I saw that section, it troubled me immensely," Itkin told the Sun. "It's not the position of the department."
Itkin should be more than troubled, he should be embarrased - but not because the note is inaccurate. In fact, the note is probably the most honest assessment we've seen in awhile of what is actually going on at Yucca Mountain.
And despite Itkin's protest to the contrary, it does indeed closely reflect the functional position of the Department of Energy. What it does not do, of course, is protect the facade of an unbiased, scientific evaluation that the DOE has desperately tried to maintain.
For years now, the DOE's scientists and engineers have labored to design a storage facility at Yucca Mountain that will meet federal specifications. The research long ago stopped being about if the Yucca site is suitable, but how to make it suitable.
In other words, the DOE has clearly taken on the role of advocate for the nuclear power industry's view that the best and only solution to the piles of nuclear waste it has scattered throughout the country is to dump them all in a remote part of the Nevada desert.
Itkin reiterated the dogma that the DOE's report - which is not yet done, although the conclusions seem to have been written first - has found no "showstoppers" to the use of Yucca Mountain.
There's a rather simple explanation for that. In order to find a "showstopper," the DOE would have to be actually looking for one.