Recent hearings were the last gasps of the Yucca Mountain road show via Las Vegas Sun

The federal government’s long-winded campaign to mollify the nuclear power industry by adopting Yucca Mountain as the burial grounds for spent, highly radioactive fuel rods is running on fumes. And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s hearings last week in Southern Nevada were farcical, the dying gasps of misguided efforts, extended by a judge’s order when just about everyone except nuclear power plant operators is finally willing to put Yucca in the rearview mirror.

The NRC, keeping a straight face, conducted the hearings only because of the court order, to get public feedback on an environmental impact statement that concluded that any radiation leakage from Yucca Mountain, through groundwater, would be inconsequential, based on its computer modeling. (Never mind that Nevada’s experts have found otherwise.)

Thankfully, we don’t expect to be putting the lives of future generations of Nevadans on the line based on a computer’s theoretical projection. The Department of Energy, the applicant that was seeking the use of Yucca Mountain’s bowels, withdrew its request in 2010. The NRC said the matter still had to go forward. The issue was appealed but became essentially moot after President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid stripped the project of ongoing funding.


With all this said, let’s keep in mind there are other proposals from private companies to store highly radioactive nuclear waste on a temporary basis — 60 years, versus a million, until new long-term solutions can be found. As Gov. Brian Sandoval said of the futility of continued NRC hearings, “Moving beyond the failed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is essential if our country is ever going to safely solve the problem of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.”

One point is clear during this exhausting battle to protect Yucca Mountain: There’s growing political agreement and the recommendation of a presidential commission that no state should have these spent fuel rods shoved down its throat — especially Nevada, which doesn’t have any nuclear power plants yet is being asked to accommodate everyone else’s radioactive castoffs like it should be our problem, not theirs.

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