LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Yucca Mountain site unworkable from start

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Your editorial “Boondoggling in Never-Never Land” (Tuesday) overlooks the fact that the proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was a creation of political shenanigans and boondoggling from the beginning.

The site was singled out in 1987 not because it was the best site or even a suitable one, but because Nevada was too politically weak to stop it. Powerful members of Congress, including House Speaker Jim Wright, House Majority Leader Tom Foley, Energy Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston and others, used their clout — and Nevada’s lack of clout — to get better sites in their states off the hook. If the scientific and fair process for selecting repository sites set up in the original Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 had been allowed to prevail in 1987, the country very likely would have a national nuclear waste repository today, albeit not at Yucca Mountain.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future studied the lessons to be learned from the failed Yucca Mountain program and produced a series of sound, workable recommendations that, if implemented, have the best chance of finally solving the country’s nuclear-waste problem. If Yucca Mountain has taught us anything, it’s that continuing to try to force an unsafe and unworkable repository site on an unwilling state only gets the nation further away from a real solution.

Facilities like nuclear-waste repositories can be and have been located in geologically suitable places with the consent of the state and local communities. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plan facility, a repository for transuranic waste that has been operating successfully in New Mexico since 1999, is just one example. Sweden, Finland, France, Germany and even Canada, among others, are all moving ahead with consent-based siting programs. It’s time the United States got its head out of the Yucca Mountain sand.

JOSEPH C. STROLIN

Minden, Nev.

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