Yucca Mountain makes sense as nuclear waste repository

Unfortunately, President Obama removed it from consideration, leaving no place for Hanford's nuclear waste. Gov. Gregoire has wisely voiced concern.


President Obama's Commission on America's Nuclear Future spent two days at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation last week touring the site and taking testimony from local advocacy groups and American Indian tribes about the importance of nuclear waste cleanup.

Commission members also got an earful from Gov. Chris Gregoire. Let's hope commission members take seriously what she had to say.

Gregoire made it clear she disagrees with Obama's decision to permanently remove from consideration Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

The U.S. Energy Department has spent 25 years -- and $10 billion -- developing plans to bury at least 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel in the Nevada mountain.

To abandon that plan now is as dangerous as it is a shameful waste of resources.

The nuclear material at Hanford needs to be stored, and stored safely. The federal government cannot continue to delay the cleanup up of 53 million gallons of radioactive waste contained in 177 tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The nuclear waste is in Washington state because Hanford is the site selected by the federal government to make nuclear material needed for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that ended World War II. The bombs -- and the nuclear waste -- were created on behalf of the entire nation, and therefore the federal government has a responsibility to clean up the mess.

If Yucca Mountain does not become the nation's nuclear-waste repository, the billions spent at Hanford could be squandered. The nuclear waste at Hanford is being turned into glass logs that were designed to specifications for storage at Yucca Mountain.

An estimated one million gallons has already leached into the soil and if nothing is done, more of the leaking waste could eventually reach the Columbia River.

The state -- and the nation -- don't have time to begin a fresh search for the site of a nuclear waste repository.

Unfortunately, Obama's decision to start from square one might be rooted in politics. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is facing a serious election challenge as he seeks a fifth term. Reid, who opposes the Yucca Mountain project, could gain voter support in Nevada if it appears he has influence in this matter.

Playing politics with an issue so important to the entire nation is irresponsible.

Gregoire and other Democratic leaders in Washington state, including Sen. Patty Murray, opposed removing Yucca Mountain from consideration. Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, is also opposed.

Obama and his Commission on America's Nuclear Future must rethink the dangerous decision to throw away $10 billion spent on making Yucca Mountain the nation's nuclear waste repository.


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