Yucca Mountain isn’t so inevitable now
Could this really be the end of the Yucca Mountain nuclear-storage project? Nevada officials certainly sounded like it on Friday as they reacted to an appeals court ruling that rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of protection for 10,000 years.
Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval said Yucca Mountain had been “stopped in its tracks.”
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he believed the ruling was “enough to effectively kill the project.”
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., also said it “provides Nevada a crucial legal tool to defeat the Yucca Mountain project once and for all.”
But the money and the political forces arrayed against Nevada are vast, and we’ll take a slightly more guarded view of the court’s ruling.
As long as there is no viable alternative developed for storage of the nation’s highly-level radioactive waste, not to mention the $6 billion already spent on the Southern Nevada hole in the ground, it will be difficult to believe the plan won’t be pursued in some form.
Still, Nevadans who oppose the Yucca Mountain project can celebrate a major victory. The court’s finding buttresses their argument that standards were being compromised against the research of “sound science.”
It’s an even bigger blow to the forces in the state who lately have been counseling “negotiation” as a means of gaining some kind of financial windfall for Nevadans for a federal dump site they deemed inevitable.
If nothing else, the EPA will have to go back to the drawing board to set radiation standards. That likely will take years. We’d much rather the Department of Energy take a bigger step back and reconsider the whole concept of moving 77,000 tons of radioactive waste across the country to the Nevada desert so it can be buried in casks.
A real alternative – one that doesn’t needlessly expose millions of people or threaten the water supply of the country’s fastest-growing city – is ultimately the only course that will ensure the Yucca Mountain idea is dead forever.