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The Yucca Mountain Project 
Disaster waiting to happen?  Only option or another money-maker?

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project

George W. Bush and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham think this would be a good spot to dump nuclear waste from all over the nation.  So does Margaret Chu, director of the DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.  Critics of her nomination objected to the fact that she spent more than 20 years working for a company that has made billions studying the feasibility of using the Yucca Mountains as a nuclear dumpsite, a company that will make a lot more money if the dump becomes reality. It looks like that's going to happen.  In February Bush officially chose the Yucca Mountains in Nevada to be the nation's burial site for 77,000 tons nuclear waste, and now the House of Representatives has cleared the way, too.
There are many, though, who desperately don't want tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste put into these mountains which lie 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  Residents of Nevada, for example, are almost unanimously dead set against it. While campaigning for the presidency, Bush promised Nevadans he would veto any bill to send interim nuclear waste to Yucca, but now he's done a turn-around. Nevadan legislators from both parties have spent the past 20 years fighting the Yucca Mountain project on Capitol Hill.  Sadly, though, Nevada carries the weight of only 4 electoral votes; nobody listens. 

Nuclear Waste
Route Maps

Will radioactive waste be traveling through your community?

Outside of Nevada, many Americans are opposed to having more than 10,000 shipments of high-level nuclear waste traveling through 45 states in barges, railroad cars, and trucks.

The decision, originally scheduled for June, 2001, was delayed during a conflict of interest investigation. A law firm hired by the Energy Department to review licensing documents regarding Yucca Mountain was also lobbying for the nuclear industry. Nevada's congressional delegation may push for criminal charges against the firm, Winston and Strawn.

On December 18, 2001, the state of Nevada filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt the Yucca Mountain project.  The lawsuit states that the Energy Department revised Yucca Mountain site guidelines after scientists discovered the Yuccas might not work as a primary barrier preventing radioactivity from escaping into the environment from decaying pellets of spent nuclear fuel. 

The state says the DOE should have stopped the Yucca Mountain program at that point, but instead the DOE just lowered it's standards and formed new guidelines.

On December 5, 2001, the General Accounting Office of Congress issued a preliminary report urging the Bush administration to indefinitely postpone a decision on building the site beneath Yucca Mountain.  Spencer Abraham called the report "fatally flawed" and is urging Bush, who now has the final decision, to push ahead.  They are in a hurry to get the project up and running by the year 2010, and for good reason.

The Energy Department is facing 12 lawsuits totaling $50 billion brought on by nuclear utilities who are angry because the government hasn't met the 1998 deadline the DOE set for taking away their nuclear waste.  The Energy Department estimates it will end up paying between $2 and $3 billion, but the GAO says it could be lower or higher, "... depending on when DOE begins accepting spent nuclear fuel," their report said.  Thus the rush.  The longer they wait to find a dumping site, the more they (we) will have to pay, and the longer large quantities of nuclear waste will be sitting all over the country, threatening the environment, security, etc.

But what about the good citizens of Nevada?  There are definite health concerns to those living in the area.  Yucca Mountain is in a seismically active area and lies above an aquifer that is the only source of drinking water for area residents.  Ground water has been found to seep through the mountains.  Nevadans worry about the contamination of their drinking water, and there's also the concern that the groundwater will corrode the nuclear waste storage containers, making them susceptible to leakage.

Then there's the fact that this ground is considered sacred to the Shoshone and the Pauite.  Yucca Mountain is located within the Western Shoshone Nation; the mountain and the surrounding area were never deeded to the U.S. government. In fact, most of the area now used by the U.S. military for nuclear weapons testing and waste storage was explicitly recognized as Shoshone land.

The senate is expected to have the final vote in July.  Take action and let your representatives know how you feel about these issues.  Click here for contact information.  


Yucca Mountains in the News

An Open Letter to Nevadans
Sources and Related Articles 
Interactive:  The Yucca Mountain Project
Nevada is Pick for Nuke Waste
The CBS News story
Water found below Yucca heightens concerns
Abraham: GAO's Yucca Mountain Report 'Fatally Flawed'
Nominee Raises Conflict of Interest Issues Yucca Mountain Project
Report: Yucca is behind schedule
Repository won't be complete until 2015
State Delegation may push for criminal charges
Sacred Land Film Project

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