Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Article excerpt

Fear and Loathing Near Las Vegas

Of many obstacles standing in the way of reaching consensus on a national energy policy, perhaps none are greater to surmount than the twin evils of fear and misinformation. Employing both long has played a part in politics, of course. But peddling fear as a political tactic becomes particularly heinous in times of national crisis, when decisions should be made not on appeals to emotion but on reason and fact.

Such campaigns are even more reprehensible, however, when taxpayers bankroll them. This is the case in Nevada, where state officials and congressional delegates are pulling out all the stops and evidently will stoop to anything to kill the proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain. That Nevada test-site facility is designed to store high-level nuclear waste for tens of thousands of years and has undergone exhaustive and expensive design work and study. It will be all but impossible to resuscitate the nation's moribund nuclear-power industry without it, as proposed in the Bush administration's recently released energy policy.

Understanding that sowing fear offers the surest way to derail Yucca Mountain and foreclose the nuclear-energy option, Nevada Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn is asking the state Legislature to appropriate $5 million to fund a national ad campaign. It is meant to scare non-Nevadans into opposing Yucca Mountain, too, because the nuclear materials would have to be moved through their towns or communities on the way to the storage site. "This would allow us to tell other states the proposal includes sending nuclear waste by truck or train right past the schools and parks and homes of people in Colorado and Illinois and Utah," said a spokesman for Guinn.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., also has gotten into the act by publishing on her House of Representatives Website a list of communities and congressional districts through which nuclear wastes might pass on the way to Nevada. She has distributed the list to green groups, which have elevated fear-mongering to a high art. "This will be an invaluable tool to educate the public on the dangers of transporting nuclear waste through the backyards of American communities," according to Berkley's mouth-for-hire.

But much of the radioactive materials intended for burial deep in Yucca Mountain already are in American "backyards" and have been there for decades. They are stored in temporary holding areas at roughly 70 sites nationwide, some of which have reached or are approaching full capacity. …

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