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Yucca Mountain waste dump (2002)

We all know that nuclear power plants produce deadly waste. We know that no one has yet come up with a system by which to safely dispose of this waste, which remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

We also know that reliance on hugely expensive nuclear power plants, reduced significantly in recent years by growing concerns about waste disposal problems, is a priority of the Bush administration. Brought to its knees by health and environmental concerns, the nuclear industry is now attempting, with the help of the administration, to resuscitate itself at the expense of our safety.

Beating the drum of nuclear energy, the Bush administration is pushing legislation aimed at declaring Yucca Mountain, Nevada - a sacred site to the Western Shoshone Nation - as a national dump for deadly waste that continues to amass on site at the power plants where it is created. It seems to be of no apparent importance to them that Yucca Mountain sits on an earthquake zone and above a fresh water aquifer, and that the mountain itself has consistently failed independent scientific testing in its capacity to safely contain this waste for tens of thousands of years. The nuclear industry's desire for expansion requires that a dumping place be found for the tons of waste already accumulated so that more can be created. The industry is desperate to get this deadly stuff off their hands - and into ours.

We believe the nuclear industry has no right to create a dangerous substance it can neither safely contain nor control. The industry's right to profit from the creation of energy stops when it chooses to slough off the responsibility for its garbage onto us.

And Yucca Mountain is just the first target. Next on the nuclear industry's hit list is the Reservation of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians in Utah. The nuclear industry argues that a "temporary site" for storage of radioactive waste is necessary because, even if approved, Yucca Mountain will not be "ready" until at least 2010. Thus, an equally-if-not-more-lunatic plan is to store high-level nuclear waste, encased in cement casks, or "coffins," on the surface of the ground in Skull Valley, 60 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The federal government estimates that 77,000 tons of deadly nuclear waste will have to be transported over our railways and highways. Shipping this highly toxic waste through 44 states and the District of Columbia presents the potential for a disaster of astonishing proportions. The irresponsible "out of sight, out of mind" proposals at Yucca Mountain and Skull Valley represent an ecological insult of historic import. Therefore, we call upon the United States Senate to act on behalf of all citizens and the environment by preventing the licensure of private fuel storage at Skull Valley and by voting to stop the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

James Cromwell, Mike Farrell


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