By Jim Hannah
It may never happen, but should the stalled Yucca Mountain radioactive waste disposal site ever be activated, the plan is to ship up to 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste to the Nevada site. This would be a particular hazard for the residents of Las Vegas, only 90 miles away. But the hazard would also include Kansas City, intended as the hub of six rail routes for 3,547 shipments passing through Missouri. (See footnotes below.)
Constant vigilance will be required to prevent this nightmare scenario from becoming reality, says Beyond Nuclear, whose mission is to “educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future” (www.beyondnuclear.org).
On Thursday, March 21, PeaceWorks-KC will host Beyond Nuclear staffer Kevin Kamps, a long-time leading opponent of government and industry efforts to dump nuclear and other radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain. Kamps will address the question “Will America’s Nuclear Waste Problem Be Passing Through Missouri?” at Rime Buddhist Center, 700 W. Pennway, KC MO, 7-8:30 pm. Kamps will review the history of Yucca Mountain, why it is deemed unsafe for radioactive waste disposal, and what needs to be done to ensure the site is never operational.
Reviewing the history and future of Yucca Mountain, John Hudak of the Brookings Institute notes that “while Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in 2002, Congress and President Barack Obama ended funding for the project in 2011. For nearly six years, Yucca’s status remained frozen—authorized but unfunded—and construction halted. However, after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, supporters of the project saw a path to restart funding, and operations (Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 26, 2018).”
With Democrats gaining a majority in the House of Representatives this January, Hudak asks, “Did a blue wave wash away Yucca Mountain?” Not altogether, he indicates, but it certainly dampens any hope of firing it up soon. New legislation would need to be introduced on the House floor to restore funding to Yucca Mountain, an idea Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already voted against—and she pretty much controls what legislation will make it to the floor of the House. Further, Hudak notes, Democrats won big in Nevada during last year’s November mid-terms, and are therefore unlikely to alienate their constituents, who broadly oppose Yucca Mountain.
So for now Yucca Mountain may seem like a molehill. But Greek legend has a cautionary tale about Hydra, the water-snake-like monster with many heads. When one head was cut off, two more heads emerged from the wound. Come hear on March 21 what Kevin Kamps can tell us about the Herculean task of cauterizing the wounds so no new heads emerge.
This map shows KC as the hub of six rail routes to Yucca Mountain under consideration in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Energy for transportation of radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
The 2017 report would designate up to 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste to be shipped to Yucca Mountain, including 3,574 shipments passing through MO, with KC as the hub.
—Jim Hannah is a PeaceWorks-KC Board member.
—Late news note: Two “temporary” radioactive waste dumps have been proposed on the Texas/New Mexico border.