Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Condolences from Harry Reid

At the foundation of all of this, I suppose the bright side is that this increases my job security.

Barack Obama -- whom I voted for -- earlier this year made good on a campaign promise to kill the federal nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada where, by 2020, high-level nuclear waste from the nation's nuclear weapons program, its nuclear Navy and commercial nuclear power plants was supposed to begin to be stored, long-term.

The site -- which Les Blumenthal of McClatchy Newspapers comically points out has, for its nearest neighbor, a Nevada brothel -- cost the federal government between $12 and $13 billion over the past several years, and now will not be used, leaving the nation's nuclear waste (which, truth be told, would cover only a handful of football fields if concentrated all together) scatered at 31 locations nationwide, but mostly in Washington State, South Carolina, and my home state of Idaho.

I understand the NIMBY desires of Nevada. They haven't grown up with the nuclear industry as we have here in eastern Idaho (though you'd think they could use the underground caverns at the Nevada Test Site, where 100-megaton bombs were detonated to store waste; nothing's going to get through the 15-foot-thick shell of vitrified sand (known as glass) that surrounds those caverns like massive radioactive geodes). But back to Idaho. We've got waste here from Colorado of all places, and, in 1995, the state sudcessfully sued the feds to get it out, with the waste being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

But there's high-level waste here, now without a place to go. And that's part of the agreement.

So enter soon the lawyers.

That probably means I could retire out here if I wanted to, and make good with that old Steve Martin joke:

"I had something I wanted to tell you, but I forgot what it was," Steve said.

"Well, it couldn't be that important, or you wouldn't have forgotten it."

"Oh yeah," he says. "I remember. I'm radioactive. Shake?"

The reality is that with Yucca closed, the feds still have that big problem: Where to put all the waste? It's got to go somewhere. Both Idaho and Washington state have agreements with the feds to rid the states of waste, and neither state is likely to roll over on the issue. If it came down to it, would I accept the waste here? Probably. But it would have to come with guarantees. You know. Money. Amigo money. No dough, no show.

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