Wasting time on nuclear waste?

How to dispose of byproducts from the nation's nuclear facilities is a serious issue, and Congress seems to be getting nowhere.

By Page Rockwell
Published June 17, 2005 1:25PM (EDT)

Congress has been trying to resolve the pesky problem of what to do with the nation's nuclear waste all year. Lawmakers still lack a solution, even though the problem is a serious one: The National Academy of Sciences found that current storage facilities are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. And evidence surfaced that the Interior Department cooked its books in an attempt to demonstrate the safety of the Bush administration's preferred solution of moving the waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain site.

With the Yucca plan on hold for now, the House passed a measure last month that would have required the Energy Department to create a plan for temporary storage sites that could begin receiving waste by 2006. But with only $10 million allocated for the alternate storage scheme, the House's strategy met with skepticism in the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, which rejected the measure this week. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., called the House measure "totally inadequate. You can't start a program of that importance with $10 million and a paragraph." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has advocated for finding safer ways to store waste in its current locations (and who calls Nevada home), expressed frustration that "half-baked" measures have taken the focus away from more sustainable solutions. "All the House has done has been to stir up members in an unproductive way," Reid said.

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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