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United we stand – sometimes

Andrew Gmerek

Americans love to boast that “united we stand.” But on Tuesday, America showed its true colors when the U.S. Senate turned on one of its own states and voted to open Yucca Mountain, forever transforming a section of Nevada into the country’s nuclear waste dump.

Now I probably wouldn’t be writing about Yucca Mountain or the plight of the Nevadans that live near this gargantuan tragedy-in-the-making – after all I’m not normally considered a tree hugger, though I have been known to pat an aspen on the behind every once in a while if it has curves – except for a very irritating radio commercial that crept under my skin.

A local radio station recently ran a series of ads sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – truly a group that I’d trust with my health and well-being – supporting Sen. Wayne Allard’s decision to force Nevada to store Colorado’s, and the rest of the country’s, 42,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. The commercials explained the U.S. government had spent 20 years and $7 billion on the Yucca Mountain project and painted Allard as a true American hero for standing up to the extremists and special interests in his battle to free Colorado from its nuclear menace.

What a crock of uranium.

Our government officials have paid $7 billion dollars for one toilet seat in the past, so I’m not all that impressed with the amount of money spent on the environmental impact or any other research they’ve done.

I also don’t remember anyone forcing nuclear fuel on Colorado. All of our waste was created right here to benefit the residents of Colorado in the form of jobs and energy. We created the waste we will soon be stashing in Nevada, and we did it without any thought of future permanent disposal.

As for those special interests and extremists that Allard is battling, as I see it they are actually the homeowners, families, ranchers and farmers of the state of Nevada. This includes extremists like Nevada’s governor and children playing within sight of Yucca Mountain. Maybe we should lock up the little troublemakers.

Now many people – mostly people living as far away from Yucca Mountain as is possible – think the Nevadans are overreacting. Hell, as long as the stuff isn’t in the great state of Texas, who cares, right? But one glance at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Yucca Mountain Web site by anyone with a brain not damaged by nuclear fallout or MTV would realize maybe they have a right to be scared.

Even though the Web site is obliviously designed to create confidence in the Yucca Mountain storage facility, it’s peppered with small tidbits that, when read carefully, would scare the stuffing out of even our heroic Wayne Allard.

For instance, the Web site states, “Analysis of the preliminary design using mathematical models, though subject to uncertainties, indicated that public health and the environment can be protected.”

Uncertainties? What uncertainties? Could they mean the fault line that runs down the center of the storage complex? Could they mean the seven volcanoes within 12 miles of the complex that might erupt at any time?

All is OK though, the Web site goes on to read, because DOE scientists and engineers are continuing to look at ways to improve the site and moreover, scientist will, for at least 50 years, keep an eye on things. Besides, possible radiation exposure in the distant future is only modest. Funny, if I remember my grade school nuclear science classes, the half-life of uranium and plutonium is about a gazillion years give or take a decade. Which means that basically the government is planning on “keeping an eye” on this stuff until everyone who voted for this nightmare is dead and can’t be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

The thing that worries me the most, however, is when U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he was happy with the Senate’s decision because, “the clean energy generated by nuclear power will remain an important part of America’s energy mix.”

How can an energy system that generates thousands of tons of some of the most deadly material on earth be considered “clean?” The man must have hit his head riding his snowmobile through a national park.

The radio commercial ends by asking people to call Sen. Allard to express their support, and I also believe Allard should be phoned. But when you call, you might want to say that as a responsible Coloradoan, you don’t want our dogs – government or private businesses – crapping in our neighbor’s yard. Tell him we should find a solution to our nuclear waste problem here at home. And you might want to mention that you think Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell did the right thing. Maybe then he’ll see the light before we all begin to glow.

Senator Allard’s phone number is (202) 224-3121.

Andrew Gmerek is a weekly columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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