We can understand that the people of Nevada are less than enthusiastic about the plan to use Yucca Mountain about 100 miles from Las Vegas as a national depository for nuclear waste.
Nuclear waste is the ultimate NIMBY. We all know it has to be stored somewhere, but everybody says, "Not In My Back Yard."
But the hard, cold fact of the matter is that the stuff has to be stored somewhere, and it looks like Nevada is the place.
About 40,000 tons of waste has built up at sites across the country, which means, of course, that right now there's a whole lot of nuclear waste in a whole bunch of backyards.
We are not fond of the growing trend to use the tragedy of September 11 as an excuse to pursue or justify sundry projects in the name of national security. But is difficult to ignore the danger from terrorism that exists when stockpiles of nuclear waste are scattered around the nation.
Of course, those who are opposed to the use of Yucca Mountain point out that consolidating the material would create a tempting target for terrorists, but is clearly easier to develop and implement a security plan for one site than for many.
Acting on the recommendation of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, President Bush has approved the Yucca Mountain site. But there will be a battle.
Prepare for fight: Nevadans have already put together a war fund of more than $5 million and the gaming industry has pledged $750,000 to the battle.
The ultimate decision will fall to Congress, where arguments will be made that Yucca Mountain isn't really the best site, that no single site is desirable and that states other than Nevada should be concerned about how the radioactive material is going to be transported across the country. If opponents lose in Congress, they'll take the fight to court.
But the bottom line is that this nation has been grappling with this problem for more than 20 years and a long-term solution cannot be put off indefinitely.
Until scientists find a way of circumventing the laws of physics and turning radioactive material into nonradioactive material, a safe and secure depository is needed.
Yucca Mountain is capable of providing that depository.
Nuclear waste is now kept at commercial reactors in 34 states and at a number of other defense sites. The waste at commercial reactors is growing by 2,000 tons a year and will grow even more as aging nuclear plants are decommissioned. Besides that, the growing dependence on imported oil and the growing demand for cleaner power plants has some people talking about a resurgence in the nuclear power industry.
Nuclear waste is not going to go away by itself. The best place to put it is Yucca Mountain.