Moving Radiation Through Your Backyard

At the end of the Senate's working day on July 9, it was decided that Senate Joint Resolution 34 will allow for the passage of 77,000 tons of nuclear waste through towns across our country for the next thirty years by way of truck, train and barge.

As a proponent of this plan, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has argued that the "project is critical for national security." The 50 million people that are within 1/2 mile of the proposed shipment routes will probably disagree. If an accident should occur on a train route, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that 48 people will die of cancer from the radioactive materials released into the surrounding areas.

It is not a safe time to tempt terrorists with vulnerable shipments of nuclear waste traveling across the country at a rate of six shipments per day along predictable routes. As word of this disaster-in-the-making gets out, concerned citizens are entering their addresses at to see how close the shipments would come to their residence, nearby schools, and local hospitals. Many are beginning to join Nevada in fervent opposition of Yucca Mountain. Nevada is expected to challenge the senate's decision on 10th Amendment grounds. In addition, five lawsuits addressing the environmental and procedural aspects of the project are currently pending.

The sobering reality is that long after the current governing administrations are no longer in office, and our children and grandchildren no longer walk this earth, the highly radioactive nuclear waste will stay in the ground beneath Yucca Mountain, Nevada for 10,000 daunting years.

This monumental decision effects the next 500 generations of citizens to come, and should not be taken lightly. The DOE seems to feel that the 600 earthquakes Yucca Mountain has experienced in the last 20 years are not important enough to warrant halting the plans for dumping nuclear materials at the sight. The DOE needs to face the fact that spending $7 billion on researching the site may have been a waste. There is no denying the unpredictability of leaving nuclear waste above Yucca Mountain's active magma pocket, and steam outlets. Yucca Mountain also lies above the aquifer that provides drinking water to Nevada citizens, on Native American land belonging to the Western Shosone.

The deepest problem here lies at the base of our views on energy. America wants mass amounts quickly, cheaply, and without any strings attached to create a dependence on other nations for its supply. Nuclear energy has been a very important aspect of our nation's energy for the last 50 years, promising at first to be "too cheap to monitor." But let's monitor this: each of the shipment spills (an estimated one per 300 shipments) will cost taxpayers $6 billion to clean up. The first one hundred years of construction and operation of the dumpsite will cost taxpayers $58 billion. And don't forget the "cost" of the lives of local fire fighting, police force, and hazardous waste teams who will get lethal doses of high level radiation from their exposure to the spills.

No one in this world has any idea what to do with the wastes produced from creating nuclear energy. If Spencer Abraham keeps house anything like he handles the problem of our nation's nuclear waste, there are mounds beneath his carpet where dirt has been conveniently swept.

Our nation needs to handle this problem. Shipping the waste in an attempt to hide it does not solve the problem. What administration wants to take on the responsibility of switching to renewable energy resources for our nation's energy needs if it means that the economy will be hit? As a nation, we baby the nuclear industry with subsidies and other forms of government aid, so we should start by transferring some of that wealth to renewable sources. Meanwhile, Yucca Mountain is not the answer. Is the earth ours, or is it borrowed from our children? It is not fair to leave them, and future generations, in jeopardy this way.

Call Senators about Yucca Mountain today at the Senate switchboard: (202)-224-3121.

Marissa Zubia is the Renewable Energy Project coordinator of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and can be contacted by email.

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