The conflicting signals coming our way from Yucca Mountain may be seen, in the long run, as cracks in the foundation of the nuclear-storage plan that could allow a bit of common sense to seep in.
In recent weeks, the news has been:
n A decrease in funding in President Bush's budget for annual operations at the Southern Nevada site.
n The resignation of the Department of Energy project manager, Margaret Chu.
n A report by the Washington, D.C.-based National Commission on Energy Policy calling for interim aboveground nuclear storage sites.
n Resurrection of a proposal to shift management of the Yucca project away from the federal government to an independently managed corporation.
You can see why it's difficult to get a read on whether this behemoth is moving forward, sitting still or sliding backward.
There's not enough money to meet the schedule for permitting, yet the resignation of Chu is seen as one way to light a fire under the process. For once, a group of experts related to the nuclear industry is seeing the practicality of above-ground storage, yet a shift away from the federal government would be one means to accelerate the decision-making at Yucca Mountain.
Nevertheless, the shifting sands provide Nevadans with several opportunities to reiterate their points:
n Get away from the dogmatic thinking at DOE (and Congress and the White House) that since 1987 has made Yucca Mountain the one and only solution being studied.
n Realize dry cask storage at above-ground sites - such as being done now near the plants actually producing nuclear waste - is a workable solution for the next century or so.
n Concentrate research efforts on recycling and disposal methods, which will reduce the amount of waste needing to be stored and not threaten groundwater for 10,000 or more years.