Environmentalists Make Last Gasp Attempt to Kill America’s Most Environmentally-Friendly Major Energy Source

BACKGROUND: America has nearly one hundred million gallons of high-level nuclear waste and over 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. It presently is scattered in 131 aging temporary surface storage sites located in 39 states.

Since 1978, the federal government has been studying the best alternatives for safely storing this material. In 1982, Congress passed a law requiring the establishment of a used nuclear fuel repository. In 1987, Congress determined that the best location for a repository is Yucca Mountain, located in Nye County, Nevada, approximately 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

On July 9, 2002, the Senate voted to approve development of Yucca Mountain. On July 23, 2002, when President Bush signed H.J. Res. 87, the final legal hurdle to development was overcome.

Or was it?

Anti-nuclear activists now are filing lawsuits in the hope of forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny the U.S. Department of Energy the construction permit it needs to complete the Yucca Mountain project.

Some activists are Nevadans affected by the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome, but others have an agenda that is far more significant: They believe that if they shut down Yucca Mountain, a nuclear power plant will never again be built in the United States.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Should the anti-nuclear activists carry the day and halt the Yucca Mountain repository project, they will compromise the safety of the American people and increase our reliance on less environmentally-friendly energy sources.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Nuclear energy is probably the most environmentally-friendly major energy source we have. It also is one of the most reliable. Anti-nuclear activists claim to oppose the Yucca Mountain repository for safety reasons, but using Yucca would be safer than leaving nuclear waste scattered across the U.S.

DISCUSSION: A study by nuclear physicists Gerald E. Marsh and George Stanford after the 9-11 terrorist attacks determined that the most vulnerable part of a nuclear power plant for a terrorist hit is an aboveground wet storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. Today, such pools exist. Within Yucca Mountain, however, spent fuel would be stored in extremely durable containers under 1,000 feet of solid rock, far beyond the reach of terrorists.

If the Yucca Mountain complex is completed, nuclear waste and spent fuel will be secured in a single, deeply underground secure site in a geographically stable area further from any metropolitan area than any of the 131 temporary storage sites currently in operation. Presently, more than 161 million Americans live within 75 miles of one of the temporary storage sites.

The Yucca Mountain site has been studied for 26 years — more than twice the time it took to plan and complete the moon landing. Taxpayers already have invested — according to an April 21 Fox News Channel Report by William La Jeunesse — $8 billion in the project.

A2001 National Academy of Sciences report said “After four decades of study, the geological repository option remains the only scientifically credible, long-term solution for safely isolating waste without having to rely on active management.”

The average American home operates five hours per day on nuclear-generated energy. Forty percent of our nation’s warships operate on nuclear power. Twenty percent of our nation’s electricity comes from nuclear power. It’s time to build a safe spent fuel repository.


William La Jeunesse, “Yucca Mountain’s Nuclear Future in Question,” Fox News Channel Report of April 21, 2004, available online at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,117831,00.html as of April 22, 2004.

Department of Energy Yucca Mountain Project website at http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/ymp/index.shtml

Nuclear Policy Information Center at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearPolicyCenter.html

Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, “Terrorism and Nuclear Power: What are the Risks?” National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #374, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA374.html

Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, “Stop Worrying About Yucca Mountain” National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #391, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA391.html

Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, “Spent Fuel Belongs in Yucca Mountain” National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #397, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA397.html

Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, “Yucca Mountain: The Right Decision” National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #415, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA415.html

Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, “Yucca Mountain: A Simple Solution” National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #409, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA409.html

Nuclear Energy Institute website at http://www.nei.org

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