"Long-term burial in Yucca Mountain is not the answer"
Las Vegas Sun, Sun, Feb 1, 2009
Yucca is no solution to energy crisis
Mesquite For years I have watched with interest the courageous
fight that Nevada has waged against the Energy Department over the
proposed Yucca Mountain storage facility. Having served in Congress
for eight years, representing a district in Idaho that included a
major Energy Department facility (INL) and serving for two years as
the U.S. nuclear waste negotiator, I know how difficult the struggle
I worked with Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus as he led a similar fight to
stop the Energy Department from locating nuclear waste products above
the Idaho aquifer, and I took every opportunity to support the
efforts of Sen. Harry Reid and then-Sen. Richard Bryan.
While directing the nuclear waste office, I argued against the Energy
Department's Yucca proposal and offered alternative solutions which
were not appreciated. In fact, when my agency's funding was up for
renewal, the Energy Department quietly used its influence to close
the office of U.S. nuclear waste negotiator in 1995.
Today, Nevada and the nation are poised at a significant crossroads.
Sen. Reid has cut funding for Yucca while Gov. Jim Gibbons has
proposed severe cuts to the funds the state has used to fight the
Energy Department. I believe Congress will interpret Nevada's
financial retreat as a sign that Nevada's opposition to Yucca has
weakened. The Las Vegas Sun's Jan. 25 editorial ("Selling out Nevada:
Gibbons plans to cut fight against Yucca Mountain and some in GOP
want blood money") was right on target!
And what about the nearly 20 percent of the nation that uses
electricity generated by nuclear power? Many argue the current policy
of on-site waste storage is a solution. But that is also shortsighted
and unless the Energy Department takes responsibility for the spent
fuel, as it promised many years ago, several reactors may be forced
There is no question that significant amounts of green power will be
needed in the near future. Coal and oil are not solutions. Wind and
solar may be part of the solution and, while natural gas has filled
the void during the past few decades, its skyrocketing cost has
raised serious questions. My conclusion is that nuclear energy must
I know the biggest obstacle is dealing with the waste stream. Long-
term burial in Yucca Mountain is not the answer, nor is on-site
storage, but there is a third option that has been developed that
holds great possibilities. It requires a smaller investment, shorter
storage time and a process our scientists have had success with. It
is known as the 300-year Spent Nuclear Fuel Disposal Solution and, as
its name suggests, it requires only 300 years for the spent fuel to
decay instead of the tens of thousands of years in the current plan.
I have always appreciated the American "can do" spirit. We have taken
difficult problems and found ways to resolve them. I believe the same
holds true with our energy crisis. We need to reduce our dependence
on foreign oil and put less pollutants in the air. A well thought out
nuclear option will help us reach these necessary goals.
It is time for the Energy Department to consider alternatives and
stop pouring billions of dollars into the failed policy at Yucca
Richard Stallings, who splits his time between Nevada and Idaho,
represented Idaho as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives
from 1985 to 1993.