George W. Bush's answer this week on Yucca Mountain was neither original nor particularly useful, but what did we expect him to say?
Bush, the Republican nominee for president, wrote in a letter to Gov. Kenny Guinn that the issue of where to dump the nation's nuclear waste should be decided by science, not politics.
Here's Bush's statement:
"I believe sound science, and not politics, must prevail in the designation of any high-level nuclear waste repository. As president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe. I also believe the federal government must work with the local and state governments that will be affected to address safety and transportation issues."
Now compare it to a statement issued by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore on Jan. 11:
"We need to address the very serious issue of high-level nuclear waste disposal based on sound science, not politics, and in a way that provides maximum protection to public health and the environment. Until the scientific analysis of the Yucca Mountain site is completed, it is premature to make a determination about its use as a disposal site. For that reason, I have strongly supported the administration's vigorous and successful fight against legislation that would move waste to the Yucca Mountain site before the scientific evaluation is complete."
At least one political scientist said there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two. But there were predictable howls from Democrats, who said Gore and President Bill Clinton have proved their worth to Nevadans by shooting down legislation that would have dumped nuclear waste at the Southern Nevada site.
Republicans, on the other hand, said Bush's statement was everything they wanted - a promise to protect Nevadans.
The irony is that all this commentary is politics, not science, and that the nation still has no alternative - even a glimmer of an idea - to Yucca Mountain as a long-term storage site. If you're trying to decide the presidential race based on this issue ... well, like Yucca, not all the facts are in yet.