Guy W. Farmer: Yucca Mountain: It's deja vu all over again

Do you remember when former President George W. Bush promised us that he would base his Yucca Mountain decisions on "sound science?" That was right before he reversed himself and betrayed Nevada by approving the toxic nuclear waste dump project even though the science was anything but sound.

I mention this unpleasant moment in Nevada history because when it comes to Yucca Mountain, it's dejà vu all over again. A recent Reno newspaper editorial was headlined, "Decision on Yucca Mountain Must Be Based on the Science." Sound familiar? Of course the science is as flawed today as it was when ex-President Bush betrayed us 10 years ago.

The Reno editorial noted that "two presidents (Bush and Obama) have promised that the ultimate decision on Yucca Mountain will be based solely on the scientific evidence," and urged President Obama to keep his promise. The only problem with that argument is that Obama has already promised to kill the nuclear waste dump project; we should hold him to that promise.

Yucca Mountain is in the news again because Nuclear Regulatory Commission Inspector General Hubert Bell has charged that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko "selectively withheld information" from the four other members of the Commission when he shut down the project without a vote. Jaczko, a former top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is an implacable foe of the project, as is Reid.

The charge against Jaczko has raised the hopes of those who want to turn the Silver State into the nation's nuclear waste dump, and they're lobbying hard to keep the project alive with considerable financial assistance from the powerful Nuclear Energy Institute, which is attempting to convince Nevadans that Yucca Mountain will save our state.

But according to Sen. Reid, the project is going nowhere. "Yucca Mountain is dead," Reid reiterated earlier this month. "It's boarded up there. All the tests have stopped. To restart Yucca Mountain would cost a zillion dollars." At the same time, the Washington Post described the project as "a case study in government dysfunction and bureaucratic inertia," yet another example of Big Government run amok.

President Obama, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Reid are killing Yucca Mountain by cutting off the funds; no money, no nuclear waste dump. Reid and U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, have cited evidence that the earth beneath the mountain 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas is not only wetter than originally believed but it's also vulnerable to earthquakes. So much for sound science. Reid and Ms. Berkley say that nuclear waste should be stored in dry casks where it's generated, and I agree.

On Thursday, noted American physicist Michio Kaku of the City College of New York described Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant as "a ticking time bomb," and the German government has decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. What else do we need to know about "sound science" and nuclear energy?

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a longtime opponent of the Yucca Mountain project.


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