There are many reasons why it was a terrible idea for the federal government to designate Yucca Mountain as a potential dumping ground for the nation's high-level nuclear waste. We can now add to that long list a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office showing that it is far less expensive to store the radioactive waste where it is generated than to bury it in Nevada.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated it would cost as little as $10 billion to store on site the 70,000 metric tons of waste that has been generated in this country, versus a minimum $27 billion at Yucca Mountain. When factoring in the possibility of even more waste, the difference in cost widens.
The findings, prepared for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., are important because taxpayers would pay 20 percent of the costs of building a permanent dump. Nuclear utility ratepayers would be responsible for the balance.
Reid, who has taken a leadership role in the fight against the dump plan, aptly said: "This report confirms what most Nevadans already know, that the president made the right decision to stop the Yucca Mountain project and focus on finding alternatives to dealing with nuclear waste."
The Obama administration has vowed to eliminate the dump plan, leaving only enough money in the Energy Department's proposed budget to close the site. But Nevadans cannot afford to relax until the department permanently withdraws its application to build the dump, an application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
That day has not yet come. But the GAO report certainly bolsters the arguments against Yucca Mountain.
Not only would disposal there be unsafe for Nevadans and for all other Americans who live near potential waste transportation corridors, but it would also be a big waste of money.