Environmental Press # 40

Subj: NIGHTLINE: Taking Out the Waste
Date: Tue, 02 Jul 2002 09:32:26 -0700
From: Nightline <listeditor@abcnews.go.com>
To: "Nightline Mailing List" <nightlinemail-l@alist0.starwave.com>

TONIGHT'S SUBJECT: As early as next week, Congress may vote on the proposed nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But like everything else these days, the debate is being couched in terms of terrorism. Is it safe to move nuclear waste by truck and train through
many of America's cities and towns?


In the now decades-old debate over nuclear power, much of the concern has focused on the danger of an accident, some sort of catastrophic meltdown. But as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island recede from our memories, that issue seems to have almost disappeared from the national debate. When the Bush administration came in, there was renewed support for the nuclear industry, but again, other issues have crowded any debate over the safety and wisdom of nuclear power off the front pages.



But another, and perhaps greater problem has been silently accumulating all these years. Nuclear waste. It stays hot for something like ten thousand years. Right now, it's being stored at the nuclear facilities themselves, usually in containment systems that were intended to only be temporary. The government has proposed taking the waste from the plants around the country and sending it all to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. There it would be stored in a system of underground tunnels. The Nevada governor vetoed the plan, and now Congress must decide whether or not to over-ride his veto. The House has already approved the plan, and it now faces a vote in the Senate. The vote is expected as early as next week, and in keeping with the controversy over this issue, it may be brought up for a vote with virtually no public notice. It could happen just about any time. And as I said above, the fear of terrorism now looms over this issue as well. Supporters of the Yucca Mountain plan say the waste is safer, that it can more easily be guarded, if it is all in one place. Opponents say that the waste would be shipped by truck or train, passing through more than forty states and near or through many of our largest cities. In other words, a terrorists' dream come true. Hundreds of potential dirty bombs on the road. And they also point out that by the time this transfer would be complete, in about 24 years, the nuclear plants would have generated almost the same amount of nuclear waste. We'd almost be back where we started. At the same time, something has to be done. This stuff can't just keep stacking up at the plants. We have to come up with some safe way of storing it for thousands of years.

That's the issue we'll be looking at tonight. We'll look at both issues, the safety of the site itself, and whether the waste can be safely transported there, and Ted's guest will be a New York Times reporter who has been covering this issue for years. It's one of those problems that isn't going to go away, as much as we might like it to. I hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Leroy Sievers and the Nightline Staff
Nightline Offices
Washington, D.C.

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