Thanks, George

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One thing we can say for President George Bush on his Yucca Mountain decision: He didn't waste any time.

No sooner had the recommendation from Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to ship the nation's nuclear waste to Nevada landed on Bush's desk than he promptly stamped it "approved" and forwarded the matter to Congress.

Storage at Yucca has been a radioactive snowball rolling downhill toward Nevada for the better part of two decades. Anyone who was fooled by Bush's election vow to base his decision on "sound science" hasn't been paying attention.

Scientists and engineers long ago stopped trying to find "show stoppers" inside the tunnels at the proposed repository. Their mission has been to find a way to make it work.

Approval was assured the minute Bush took office, because "sound science" at the Energy Department has come to mean "Do you think you can come up with answers?" And "no" was not an acceptable response.

Nevada's strategy has been to prolong the process as long as possible. In a project of this scope and complexity, the strategy could have worked forever. The difference, however, was in the politics. The nuclear energy industry saw, with Bush in the White House, the time was ripe.

The administration's statement on Bush's approval concludes with the line, "After two decades, the time has come to resolve this issue once and for all."

We agree. Nevada can now test its political muscles in Congress -- in particular, in the Senate, behind Democrat Harry Reid -- to see if it can kill this project once and for all.

The new strategy, to which Reid, Gov. Kenny Guinn and others already have shifted, is to make nuclear-waste shipment a national issue. As they have pointed out, the idea Yucca Mountain will become the nation's sole repository is simply wrong; it will merely be the biggest. And transporting the waste becomes a far more serious threat to homeland security than storage at the 131 existing sites.

Perhaps Nevada should thank Bush for bringing the Yucca Mountain issue to a head, with myriad questions and concerns far from resolved. Opponents of the nuclear dump head into the next battle well-armed.


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