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No water for nuclear-waste storage

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By Nevada Appeal editorial board

State Engineer Hugh Ricci had no choice but to deny the federal Department of Energy’s application to use Nevada water in its project to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

The most obvious reason is that Ricci would have been ridden out of town on a rail if he’d decided otherwise. The politics of anti-Yucca Mountain fervor are fairly universal in the state.

But Ricci is a professional, a respected and dedicated public employee, and as such had a duty to take an objective look at the application. After all, because something is unpopular is not exactly a sound reason for denying water.

So he held hearings to examine the application for 430 acre-feet of water (some 150 million gallons) a year to operate a nuclear-waste repository as proposed by the federal government. He weighed the request against Nevada’s definition of “beneficial use” of the state’s scarcest resource.

And he still had only one conclusion. Water for this project isn’t justified.

In the history of water in the West, there have been plenty of cockamamie schemes promoted by a long line of shysters. If they could only get the water, they could do wonders. Some of those big dreams came true, and monuments to their vision are as vast as Hoover Dam and the Central Canal.

Yucca Mountain, however, fails on the two most fundamental questions. Will it work? Is it good for Nevadans?

After $7 billion worth of research into the feasibility of the Yucca project, the answer came back that, no, it wouldn’t work based on geology and geography. But the DOE is insisting on engineering a repository its leaders think can work. It is far from proven.

There is no benefit to Nevada, primarily because Nevada produces no nuclear waste. It may be a benefit for, say, Pennsylvania. But then, so is the Susquehanna River.

All the DOE has to do is figure out how to get that water here – simply an engineering problem.

In the meantime, Nevada’s state engineer has a duty to protect the state’s precious resources. Especially against a project residents, legislators, governor and federal representatives swear to oppose.