For Nevadans, the Presidential Election Is Life or Death in a Much More Literal Way

Election '08

Will the November 4, 2008, election doom the future of Nevada? That sounds ominous, I know, but this election could be a make-or-break moment in history for the Yucca Mountain Project. This is the ill-conceived plan to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Everyone in this state knows the problems inherent in this project and should be on alert. But also this should serve as a "heads-up" to everyone in the country.

People are in a panic about how to solve the nation's energy deficit problems and it's easy to talk about building nuclear power plants as a solution. In the meantime, the Yucca Mountain Project controversy is never -- never -- mentioned. The fact is the only site ever seriously considered for storage of the inevitable deadly waste generated by nuclear power plants was Yucca Mountain. Study after study has shown it is a hazardous location for storing nuclear waste for the millions of years the waste continues to emit deadly radioactive ions. Of the many drawbacks cited, one of the most frightening is that Yucca Mountain sits in an active earthquake zone.

Nevadans voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because he said he would not approve Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear dump unless the "science was sound." Now we know he didn't mean it. Making Yucca Mountain scientifically sound would be like putting lipstick on a pig! Many experts (not being paid by the Government) have said that this is the worst place in the country to store this "stuff" but Nevadans in 2004 voted for George W. Bush again when he was actively trying to fast forward this project. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is in bed with DOE just accepted what we believe to be a flawed license application from this Administration's energy department. The time is now to say "Enough." We must take this opportunity to rectify those mistakes. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to stopping the Yucca Mountain Project in its tracks. Their opponents, on the other hand, want to build at least 32 more nuclear power plants. Every new power plant would increase the amount of waste that would have to be shipped across the country to Nevada. But, more alarming, is the fact that Yucca Mountain, even if it were perfectly safe for nuclear waste storage, is not large enough to adequately store the waste on record scheduled to be stored there.

Proponents of nuclear power plants like Sarah Palin are careful about how they talk about the subject. For example, at nearly every campaign stop over the past two weeks, Palin has touted John McCain's plan to expand nuclear energy storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. "In a McCain-Palin administration we're going to expand nuclear energy, expand our use of alternative fuels, and drill now to make this nation energy independent," she said to cheers last week in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Now consider her speech very recently in Carson City, Nevada, near the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository, where the radioactive waste would be stored right in Nevadans' backyard. In this speech, Palin's remarks about expanding nuclear energy disappeared. Hmmm, I wonder why!

My main purpose in the five years I served as Executive Director of Citizen Alert, a 34 year old non-profit trying and succeeding in stopping the transport of the deadly nuclear waste, was to constantly remind people that this was not just a Nevada issue! Indeed, transporting nuclear waste is an issue that affects people across this country. Nuclear waste will not magically disappear from reactor sites and magically appear in Nevada! It will be traveling by truck, by train, and yes, even by barge. The Department of Energy (DOE) gives millions of dollars to "affected units of Government" here in Nevada. The purpose of these dollars is to do research to determine the impact of this project to Nevada counties and their inhabitants that will have waste transported through their boundaries on its way to Yucca Mountain. Maybe you all across the country should ask DOE: "Why not send some of those dollars to my county?"

Nevadans have consistently voiced opposition to this deadly project, though some have said they would think more favorably if there were dollars attached. I believe in the world of McCain/Palin that would be considered "pork." The way the current Administration has been misspending our dollars I doubt there would ever be any kind of compensation for putting our lives and the lives of future generations of Nevadans to be put at such deadly risk And one has to ask what dollar amount would truly be adequate compensation to justify the harm this could do to our economy.

This past week we have witnessed the horrific sight of two trains crashing into each other in Southern California, killing many people and forever affecting the lives of others -- the families of those who did not survive and the memory of those who did.

The first thought that crossed my mind was gratitude that the freight train was not loaded with nuclear waste. The accident was believed to be caused by "human error." It's a tragic wake up call. When talking about transporting the deadliest substance known to man, there is absolutely no room for "human error." There really is no way to safely transport nuclear waste. Let's make sure there will never be an accident that would forever change the landscape of my town -- or yours. The link below is broken down by Congressional District so you can see how your hometown will be affected.

Again, the upcoming election is about many important issues -- not the least being the prospect of tons and tons of more deadly nuclear waste to be stored if we go ahead and mindlessly build nuclear power plants in a misguided attempt to solve our future energy needs.

AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.

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