signs Nev. nuke waste site Bill
Associated Press, July 23, 2002
By Scott Lindlaw
Washington - After two decades of study and fervent protests
from Nevada, President Bush signed a bill Tuesday making Yucca
Mountain the nation's central repository for nuclear waste.
"The successful completion of the Yucca Mountain project will
ensure our nation has a safe and secure underground facility that
will store nuclear waste in a manner that protects our
environment and our citizens," White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer said in a statement.
The project had been studied for more than 20 years, and Bush
signed the measure with no fanfare. Reporters were not allowed to
witness the bill-signing.
The House and Senate voted earlier this year to entomb
thousands of tons of radioactive waste inside Yucca Mountain --
in the desert some 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Nevada's senators, who tried for months to rally their
colleagues against the Yucca waste dump, argued that the issue
was much broader than Nevada. They hoped concerns over thousands
of waste shipments crossing 43 states would sway some lawmakers,
but they were defeated.
On Tuesday, Bob Loux, the chief Nevada state official
involved in the anti-Yucca Mountain effort, said: "We knew after
the Senate vote that this was going to happen. This was a mere
formality. For us, it's on to the legal arena."
Bush has long backed Yucca Mountain as a repository site,
formally recommending it in February.
Nevada filed a formal protest -- as was its right under a
1982 nuclear waste law -- leaving it for Congress to make a final
decision. The House approved it in May, the Senate this month.
The state has five lawsuits pending against the project, and
the Energy Department must still get a license from the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission. That process could take up to five years.
Even some Yucca supporters admit that plans to open the site
by 2010 may be too optimistic.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he was convinced that
77,000 tons of waste destined for Yucca could be stored there
safely for the tens of thousands of years that it will remain
The Bush administration and other Yucca site supporters said
leaving the radioactive garbage at 131 power plants and defense
sites in 39 states would pose an even greater risk than hauling
it to Nevada. And they said waste has been transported for years
without radiation releases.
But critics, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.,
complained that there were still "far too many questions"
Yucca site and transportation safety issues Environmentalists dubbed
planned waste shipments "mobile Chernobyl" a reference to
disaster in the former Soviet Union. They see a disaster in the making
as the radioactive cargo moves past major cities, over bridges and
through tunnels on its way to Nevada.
Abraham promised a transportation plan before the end of next year
and said stringent safety requirements will provide an "effective
first line of defense" against terrorist threats. "We've proven
we can move it safely," he said after the Senate vote.
On the Net:
Yucca Mountain Project: http://www.ymp.gov
Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects: http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste