Yucca Mountain, Nevada (Courtesy of The Whitehouse)
Plans to store radioactive nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, Nevada have been postponed again due to budget cuts and opposition. Host Bruce Gellerman turns to Lisa Mascaro, Washington correspondent for the Las Vegas Sun.
GELLERMAN: Since the 1980’s the United States has been committed to building a nuclear waste repository 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas at Yucca Mountain. The site was designed to deal with high level radioactive waste from the nation’s atomic power plants.
Yet two decades and $9 billion later, there’s a test tunnel leading a thousand feet deep into the barren basalt wasteland—but no nuclear waste. Most Nevada residents oppose the Yucca project—and in a recent debate, the top democratic presidential candidates sought their support.
GELLERMAN: Well, at long last, there may be light at the end of the Yucca Mountain debate. Joining me is Lisa Mascaro, Washington correspondent for the Las Vegas Sun. Hi, Lisa.
MASCARO: Hi, Bruce. Thanks for having me.
GELLERMAN: This is the never-say-die project, but it seems that the Department of Energy officials who are in charge of Yucca Mountain are about to miss an important deadline, right?
GELLERMAN: Well it was your Senator, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, who did cut deep into this budget.
MASCARO: Absolutely. The Nevada delegation—and really the whole state of Nevada—from the government structure and a vast majority of the population of Nevada, polls show us—are opposed to this project and have been opposed to it. And the Nevada delegation here in Washington has fought for years trying to whittle away, they say—the buzzword is sort of to starve the project of its needed funds. Well, now that Senator Harry Reid is the majority leader, he has been able to engineer one of the largest budget cuts ever to the project.
GELLERMAN: Well, they’ve laid off a lot of workers and they put it on a caretaker status, basically.
GELLERMAN: Well the Democrats are all saying ‘no way, Jose.’ What are the Republicans saying?
MASCARO: Yeah, there are—you’re absolutely right. The Democrats have come out so strong against this project, some even going so far as to say that they will be sure to kill it if they are to take office. The Republicans have been more mixed and you’ve definitely heard some of the candidates saying that the nation needs a place to put the nuclear waste and this is the place that was decided on years ago and we need to go forward with this project.
GELLERMAN: Well what happens if they really do shut down Yucca? Where does the waste go?
MASCARO: Right, Bruce. Well that’s an interesting debate and one that’s been going on for some time. There is a school of thought that says that you can store the waste exactly where it is. It can stay put at the energy producing sites across the nation. And it’s something that Senator Reid and the Nevada delegation has pushed to continue doing just that.
GELLERMAN: Lisa Mascaro is Washington correspondent with the Las Vegas Sun. Lisa, thanks a lot.
MASCARO: Thanks for having me.
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