Mountain of doubt

Will the country’s only planned nuclear waste dump survive Obama?

  • Judith Lewis and Cindy Wehling
 

Page 5

Per Peterson argues that progress on the license shouldn't scare anyone; negative evaluation by regulators, in fact, might be the only way to mothball the proposed facility for good. "Anybody who really believes the site is unsuitable shouldn't have any worry about the outcome of an independent scientific review," Peterson says. If Obama interrupts that review to satisfy campaign promises, the president-elect is no better than a climate change-science denier, he says. "Politics needs to be informed by legitimate science."

Yet teasing politics out of nuclear waste disposal might well prove impossible. Yucca Mountain, as New York Times reporter Matthew Wald recently joked to Sproat, "was chosen by some of the best geologists in the U.S. Senate," many of whom were rushing home for Christmas break when they ruled. Even Sproat calls the site selection "a technically informed political decision." Yucca Mountain was born out of politics. It may die from them, too. But if it does, it will be a slow, complicated death.

On Nov. 6, two days after Obama's victory, Sproat went before a small audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., to talk about nuclear waste. The Las Vegas papers later quoted only a snippet of his remarks, in which he admitted that Obama could withdraw the license application; Congresswoman Berkley's office was running with that theme. But Sproat was not really so pessimistic. Halting the Yucca Mountain project "would basically cast the whole process and national strategy into a lot of confusion and uncertainty," he said. Whatever faith Nevada has invested in Obama, Sproat made clear that he has more in the future of their state's repository. And even if Sproat's out of his job by January, he's not giving it up. 

"It's going to be licensed and built in my expected lifetime," he said. "I truly believe that. And that's one of the reasons I'm in this job — to make that happen."

High Country News Classifieds
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home... this is the one.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • WRITING PLACE: THE ANIMAS RIVER REGION WRITING WORKSHOP
    REGISTER ONLINE BY: Friday, June 15 WHERE: Durango, CO (location TBD) WHEN: Monday, July 16 Youth workshop: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (18 and under,...
  • EQUITY IN THE OUTDOORS COORDINATOR
    The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION INTERN/ASSISTANT
    Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE MEDIA SERVICES
    In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • UNDEVELOPED 40 ACRES - SOUTHWEST COLORADO
    in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • TRUCK DRIVER
    Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • MARIA'S BOOKSHOP FOR SALE
    - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.