States should pay attention to Yucca suit

Nevada's newest lawsuit against the federal government over nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain goes to the heart of the states' rights issue and would be well worth reading for attorneys general across the nation.

More than the danger from nuclear-waste shipments through their states to get to Southern Nevada, this is the kind of legal argument that might spur support from elected officials who recognize a precedent being set.

Here's our rallying cry: If federal agencies can do it to Nevada, they can do it to you.

A generation of Nevadans should by now be familiar with what happened. But let's recap:

In 1982, Congress accepted the responsibility for finding a solution to nuclear waste piling up at power plants and military sites around the country.

It set forth a process for studying sites that could serve as repositories for the nuclear waste. As the lawsuit filed Thursday by the Nevada attorney general notes, the primary criteria for those studies were to be "detailed geologic considerations."

Through political means -- read: not many voters live in Nevada -- the Yucca Mountain site became the only one to be studied. For 10 years, the mountain 90 miles from Las Vegas was poked, prodded and peeled.

"By the late 1990s, however the data from the Department of Energy's site characterization work at Yucca Mountain demonstrated that the Yucca Mountain geologic setting was incapable of serving as the primary isolation barrier for the planned repository, principally because groundwater flow through the mountain was much greater, and much faster, than had been anticipated," the lawsuit summarizes. "The Yucca Mountain site, in short, did not qualify for development as a repository under DOE's statutorily mandated site suitability rules."

Nevada not only got screwed in the first place, the rules were changed -- not by Congress, but by a bureaucracy -- to make sure Nevada stayed screwed.

Any attorney general who cares a whit about his or her state's ability to defend itself against the machinations of federal bureaucracy should be filing a brief in support of Nevada's fight against nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.


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