The best case against Yucca Mt. is in the Constitution, not science |

The best case against Yucca Mt. is in the Constitution, not science

Dan Mooney
Special to the Nevada Appeal

There are some illuminating parallels between the proposed high level nuclear waste depository at Yucca mountain and global warming. As compared to global warming, Yucca Mountain is much closer to home in mind, time and geography and, thus, perhaps, easier to follow. Both issues rely heavily upon computer modeling, or scientific voodoo, resulting in the abuse of science to promote interests beyond global warming or the safe storage of nuclear waste. Because even the most cautious layman may not be able to tell the difference between good and bad science, there is power in both. Those who act upon incompetent science without verification almost deserve what they get. The State of Nevada is no exception.

The abuse of science is most evident when the physical sciences are used like sorcery to influence political science. Frequently, important political decisions are made by citizen non-scientists, often public officials who trust scientific conclusions they don’t understand and cannot verify only because the chosen conclusions most closely fit already established values and beliefs or are promoted by a political favorite or party.

For example, we all know that predicting the future is not possible. Yet the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Power industry pretends to do so with abandon by presenting their computer modeling inferences as fact. They use high and legitimate sounding techniques to influence and modify our belief that there are no future (long term) adverse consequences to the storage of high level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Claiming that nuclear waste can be safely contained indefinitely is clearly an inference based upon bad science, not upon empirical evidence capable of being confirmed or verified. If there are no adverse consequences to the storage of high level nuclear waste, why not store it in those states in which it was generated? Simply put, contemporary physical science is not capable of solving the long term storage issue.

Their relentless ramming of nuclear waste down Yucca Mountain’s throat is just another example of Eastern interests historically usurping Western resources using Nevada as their dumping ground. In their disingenuous claims of sound science, dishonest conclusions are used to justify actions against our interests ostensibly in the national interest but realistically in the interest of the nuclear power industry. President Bush is using the project to reward the eastern nuclear establishment.

On the other hand, aside from the transportation issue, our belief that it cannot be contained at Yucca Mountain and that it will seep into the environment or in some way infiltrate our bodies is an artifice with even less fact than the computer modeling done by the Department of Energy. Promulgated by Nevada leaders and spread by fearful Nevadans, this belief has also seeped deep into the Nevada psyche. My physicist friends who are not beholden to the nuclear power industry or the federal government privately tell me that, if competently supervised, man can contain the material for a good long time, at least as long as it takes to find methods to neutralize its potential for human harm.

Which side is eventually found to be correct depends upon which side can accurately predict the future. Of course neither side can, so, except by chance, neither side can be correct. Neither side has stored radioactive waste for 10,000, 5,000 or even 100 years. This simply means there is no empirical evidence one way or another. Thus, both sides are guilty of treating predictions based upon inference as fact. What we know is combined with what we don’t know along with speculation and bias representing different interests.

Yet the more powerful party will probably win the argument – that is unless we change the subject to political science and the tenth amendment to the United States Constitution.

While considered a long shot, this is a states’ rights issue, not a scientific one. If we want to roll around in radioactive waste, that should be our business. If we don’t want to take a risk that the stuff will kill us and our children, that’s also our business, not the business of federal government

The tenth amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This amendment reserves to the states all powers not specifically granted by the constitution to the federal government. Thus, one could question: “Does the United States have the authority to dump radioactive waste from other states into Nevada against our will?” Nevada is in a constitutional struggle with the federal government. We cannot be abused unless we allow it to happen.

Let’s move toward an aggressive offensive constitutional strategy and forget the science of the matter.

• Dan Mooney is a 32 year resident of Carson City and frequent contributor to the Opinion page. His e-mail address is