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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Appeals Court Puts up Roadblock to Yucca Mountain Plan

Posted by DavidNYC

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the appellate court for the D.C. District Court - a court which, by virtue of its location, hears a lot of important cases) issued a ruling this week which seems to put a major roadblock in front of the Bush Administration's plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Apparently, the appeals panel sided with the feds on every count but one: How long must the waste stored at Yucca be kept safely contained?

The numbers boggle the mind a litte bit: The current plan will (allegedly) protect the waste for 10,000 years. Congress, however, required that the EPA follow the National Academy of Science's guidelines, which call for securing the waste for 350,000 years. The appeals court said that using the shortened timeline was illegal, and hence the present plan is a no-go. And who says Americans only live for the present?

Anyhow, Kerry has been pretty steadfast in his opposition to Yucca, and has been making a campaign issue of it. Edwards, who had voted for Yucca in 2002, has a little tap-dancing to do, but he's fallen quickly in line behind his new boss. In dismissing Edwards' past support for Yucca, Nevada state Senator Dina Titus had a clever line: "Unlike with the Bush administration, the vice president's not in charge in a Kerry administration." And unlike Joe Lieberman's ideologically-based support of school vouchers - which, Maoist re-education camp-style, he had to disavow after Gore tapped him - Edwards' past support for Yucca Mountain was almost certainly a matter of parochial (ie, NIMBY) local politics.

Meanwhile, this issue is growing only more, ah, toxic for Bush. Both Nevada's Republican Governor and Republican U.S. Senator are in strong opposition to Yucca Mountain, putting Bush on the wrong side of this wedge issue in an important battleground state. Unlike most other issues Bush is wrong about - Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, WMDs, etc., etc. - this one can't be spun: It's a simple yes-or-no. It's not quite clear how this new court ruling will shake out, but by bring Yucca back into the headlines, it can only serve to make Bush look bad.

No polls have been done in NV in quite some time. Let's hope someone does one soon.

Posted at 02:28 AM in Nevada | Technorati


As a native Nevadan, you'd think this issue would strike a chord with the voters. After all, this is a supposed "cowboy" and "renegade" state that has a history of opposing feds (Sagebrush Rebellion, i.e.). However, my feeling is that most people here are more afraid of terror attack than nuclear (Read: nuke-u-lar) waste. I guess you can see the towers fall but not isotopes in the air. I live in a rural area so maybe I'm jaded. Vegas will have to carry K/E this fall, Bush has done a "great" job with fear-based mentality in the sticks.

Posted by: James at July 10, 2004 06:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

James, I definitely hear what you're saying. I've been poking around for polls on the issue, but I can't seem to find any. That said, I think Kerry/Edwards could make it a pretty powerful issue, with the right kind of ads. I also think nuk-u-lar waste can be easily tied into terrorism concerns - after all, what's a better terrorist target than a nuclear repository? - without even demagoguing all that horribly.

That is, considering how cruelly Bush has under-funded true homeland security (container inspections at ports, etc.), it's reasonable to ask, will a Bush administration devote enough resources to adequately safeguard Yucca Mountain? Yes, this plays to people's fears - but I think this is something to be legitimately afraid of. As a New Yorker, I am both pissed and fearful of what might happen at our seaports because we don't have do enough there security-wise. (And I'm sure many visitors to this blog recall the scene in F9/11 with the lone state trooper who patrols the entire Oregon coast.)

Posted by: DavidNYC at July 10, 2004 09:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

"Maoist re-education camp-style"? And I thought I was the Gore-hater!

Posted by: Grant at July 11, 2004 09:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment