The political debate over nuclear waste disposal in Nevada's Yucca Mountain in the us took a new turn with the senate giving its final approval to dump 77,000 tonnes of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel 100 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas. The move cleared the decks for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (nrc) to license the us $58 billion project.
Nevada has been protesting the disposal plan for long. Reacting to the recent decision, the state's senator, Harry Reid, said: "To carry out the plan would require shipment of nuclear waste on 100,000 trucks or 20,000 rail cars through 43 states. The approval has created 100,000 targets of opportunity for terrorists who are capable of hitting objects far less vulnerable than a truck on the open highway." Environmentalists say the senate vote is a dangerous mistake. Executive director of the environmental organisation Sierra Club Carl Pope said that the plan downplays many unresolved technical issues, including how quickly the waste containers will leak radioactive waste into the aquifer beneath. Yucca Mountain is located in an earthquake-prone zone and volcanic cones are found near the repository site. Pierre Sadik, staff attorney for the us Public Interest Research Group, said that the zone is intersected by 33 seismic faults and could cause the containers to leak.
Critics have flayed nuclear lobbyists for perpetuating "the big lie" that the Nevada dump was urgently needed. The waste can be kept safely where it is, they believe. However, supporters of the Nevada waste dump said leaving the radioactive garbage at power plants and defence sites in 39 states would pose an even greater risk. The Yucca Mountain controversy does not end here. Now, Nevada has decided to fight the senate move in the federal courts.
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