Nevada has blocked the opening of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. But Nevada might be powerless to stop the U.S. Department of Energy’s announced plan to ship more than 400 containers of nuclear-power fuel waste from Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the Nevada National Security Site.
As reported by the Review-Journal’s Steve Tetreault and Keith Rogers on Nov. 12, trucks hauling dangerous uranium waste from Tennessee to the former Nevada Test Site will start rolling early next year, over the objections of Gov. Brian Sandoval. The state cannot veto the disposal plan at the federal government’s self-regulated site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and might have to sue or pursue congressional intervention to stop it.
Anytime an issue related to nuclear waste comes up in Nevada, the alarmism deployed by state leaders tends to go over the top, giving rise to images of a nuclear waste river running down the Strip. A more rational response would be helpful, lest visitors and businesses begin to take the shrill warnings seriously.
That said, this is a situation over which Nevadans have every right to be completely unreasonable with the federal government. The state is sick of the federal government acting unilaterally to tell citizens what we are getting — and in many cases what we aren’t getting. The toxic relationship between the federal government and the state of Nevada would be far more constructive if the feds gave us some deference in the process.
The Nevada National Security Site has vast tracts of land that will never be put to productive use, because the contamination there from atomic and nuclear weapons tests already runs so deep and is so spread out. That fact alone makes the site uniquely suited for the disposal of some radioactive materials, which have been stored there for a long time.
However, the uranium waste from the Oak Ridge lab is highly radioactive, about five times stronger than a previous low-level designation. Nevadans rightly don’t want it. They’re justified to reason that trucking it here could pave the way for even worse material to be hauled into our state in the future.
This problem wouldn’t exist if the federal government didn’t own 85 percent of the land in this state. The Department of Energy is giving us the same land-use business we routinely get from the Department of the Interior.
Our state’s political leaders and citizens are right when they declare: Don’t tell us what we are or are not going to take, without first including us in the process and giving us a fair say in the matter.