The Death of Yucca Mountain

Over twenty years ago, the Supreme Court accepted the Nuclear Regulatory Agency’s assurances that it would find a safe method for long-term disposal of nuclear waste.  Consequently, the NRC was allowed to assign a zero to the risk of any radioactive discharge.  As it turns out, this was an empty promise.  The solution that the government settled on was permanent underground storage at Yucca Mountain.  Many years of planning and litigation  and many billions of dollars later, the government is giving up on Yucca Mountain, with no other other solution in sight.

One of the key problems (apart from sheer NIMBYism by Nevada) was how you make sure that the sign above is observed for hundreds of thousands of years.  How do we make sure our distant descendants don’t “empty” the waste depositary (or that Nature doesn’t do so)?

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports;

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he dealt a fatal blow to the funding-starved Yucca Mountain Project on Thursday, announcing that President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have agreed to eliminate all money for pursuing a license for the nuclear waste disposal project in 2011. “The only funding allocated for Yucca will be used to conclude the work being done at the site, bringing the ill-conceived project to its rightful end,” Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement.

Moral: When someone tells you that a major problem will be solved through unknown means sometime in the future, hang onto your wallet!


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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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