Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Why Yucca Mountain rattles us should be no surprise

As I rocked and rolled at home over the July Fourth holiday, all I could think about was Yucca Mountain.

OK, call me weird for my 30-plus year obsession with the federal government’s effort to bury close to 100,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Call me skeptical about what has been a Republican push to unload the nation’s nuclear garbage on unsuspecting Nevadans and the 41 million tourists who come here every year while feigning their reliance on science to determine the outcome. And call me a nonbeliever in the benign intentions expressed by politicians on both sides of the aisle but mostly the right (wrong) side who say they are only doing what is best for America.

The simple truth has always been that the politicians are doing the bidding of the nuclear power producers — none of whom live or work or produce in Nevada — because that is where the money is.

So, back to the earthquake. Like most Southern Nevadans, I knew what was happening when it hit the evening of July 5 because earthquakes in California were all anyone was talking about. The fact that I was moving left and right in my own home so far away meant this one was big.

And it was. The quake that hit that night was at magnitudes more powerful than the 6.4 July Fourth shaker. At 7.1 magnitude, the quake that was almost equidistant between Las Vegas and Los Angeles was bound to get everyone’s attention.

And all I could think about was Yucca Mountain.

Forget all the other dump disqualifiers that exist and which the government has known about and chosen to ignore over the decades, what has consistently concerned me is how our government, supposedly acting in the interests of all the people, could refuse to accept the science of earthquakes and the fact that Nevada — specifically where Yucca Mountain sits — is right smack dab in the middle of one of the most active earthquake zones in the United States.

How on earth, one might ask, could sane individuals who profess to care about people, the environment, children and other living things, push to place the nation’s high-level nuclear garbage in an active earthquake zone?

Don’t they know that makes no sense? Don’t they know that earthquakes entail portions of the earth moving to such an extent that what was solid ground yesterday could be molten or non-existent earth tomorrow. Don’t they know what is stable today could disappear tonight? Don’t they understand that Mother Nature is stronger and more determined than anything man-made or human-engineered to keep her at bay?

If it is true that the world’s deadliest substances — the high-level waste from nuclear power plants and weapons production — need to be stable for hundreds of thousands of years, then burying it in what we will call very shaky ground makes absolutely no sense and borders on the criminal.

Right?

Apparently not. No sooner had the people of Ridgecrest, Calif., started to pull themselves up and out of the devastation of the earthquakes than the politicians in Washington ­— you know the people who want so badly to bury Nevada in a heap of nuke waste — started clamoring for movement on Yucca Mountain.

It is proof, they claimed, that seismic activity near existing power plants where the nuke waste is currently made and safely stored requires a solution like Yucca Mountain to be implemented.

Huh?

Only in Washington, where the millions of dollars from the nuclear power industry can cloud the judgment of the White House and its GOP supporters, can the illogical sound logical.

For those determined to bury this national nightmare somewhere rather than follow the dictates of what 21st-century science can produce, there may be places where nuclear waste can be stored safely. But Yucca Mountain is not one of those places. If people didn’t know that before the July Fourth holiday, they cannot feign ignorance now.

So, yes, Yucca Mountain is always on my mind. It is that political zombie that will not die, no matter how dead it is determined to be.

The good news is that the entire Nevada delegation in Washington and our elected state leadership is united against any efforts by the current administration and its Republican supporters in the House and Senate to bring it back to life.

Earthquakes are scary and the devastation they bring is real. Compounding the damage by adding thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste into the mix is just plain crazy.

Nevadans must not support this madness or anyone who even suggests it.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun