A Nevadan's View: On-site storage only viable nuclear-waste solution
I am writing to provide a Nevadan's perspective in response to the July 21 story in the News Tribune, "Lewis pledges support for Yucca Mountain nuclear repository."
Nevadans fully understand the concerns that Minnesotans have regarding high-level nuclear waste. More than 1.5 million pounds of nuclear waste is stored at Prairie Island in southeastern Minnesota, near Red Wing. Local residents, including the Prairie Island Indian community, are right to object to living with such a menace in their backyards.
By comparison, Yucca Mountain proponents would like to import 154 million pounds of such material into Nevada, a place that currently has no high-level nuclear waste. This seismically active mountain full of nuclear waste would have the potential to permanently contaminate our groundwater — the only resource that keeps us alive in the driest state in the union. While our state may be a desert, it has vibrant ecosystems full of unique creatures and communities full of unique people. It is not a wasteland and is not expendable as a sacrifice zone.
Making Nevada the dumping ground for the nation's waste aside, moving forward with Yucca Mountain would mean transporting millions of pounds of the most toxic substance known to humans through the cities, towns, and countrysides of the United States. This is a reckless and extremely dangerous proposition. Accidents happen, trucks overturn, and trains derail. It is inevitable, and the resulting nuclear accident would be as catastrophic and destructive as any in our nation's history.
While Yucca Mountain is not the answer, there are choices we could make to address this problem.
First and foremost, we could immediately cease producing more nuclear waste, which would mean the end to the nuclear-energy industry in America.
Second, given the insurmountable dangers involved in transporting this waste, we could fund a massive research-and-development effort to identify the proper technologies for permanent and safe on-site storage. This would mean folks near Prairie Island would continue to have waste in their backyards. And so would people at more than 100 nuclear waste-holding sites across the nation.
But transporting such waste poses unacceptable risks, and forcing Nevadans to accept all of it is morally reprehensible. So until we find a way to neutralize the waste, on-site storage is the only viable option.
Patrick Donnelly lives in Las Vegas.