As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, in the wee hours of Dec. 22, 1987, 49 states ganged up on one, singling out Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the sole site in the country for further study as a potential national dump for high-level radioactive waste. Numerous targeted dumpsites in the East had been indefinitely postponed a year or two before, due to widespread public resistance. Deaf Smith County, TX and Hanford, WA were also being considered for the western dumpsite. But TX had 32 U.S. Representatives, WA had a dozen, and NV, just one. TX and WA Representatives also held the powerful House Speaker and Majority Leader slots. On the Senate side, NV had two rookie Senators, regarded at the time as easy to roll. The "raw, naked" political decision was made behind closed doors.
But the science -- Yucca's geological and hydrological unsuitability -- caught up to the proposal. So did Harry Reid's revenge, as he grew in power to become Senate Majority Leader. Led by Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney, the Western Shoshone National Council maintained tireless opposition to the dump, joined, over time, by more than 1,000 environmental groups. Then, in 2009, President Obama and his Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, wisely cancelled the dangerous, controversial proposal.
Although $11 billion of ratepayer and taxpayer money had already been wasted, another $90 billion would have been wasted if the project had gone forward. If the dumpsite had opened, many thousands of high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges would have travelled through most states, past the homes of tens of millions of Americans, at risk of severe accidents or intentional attacks unleashing disastrous amounts of radioactivity into metro areas. And if wastes had been buried at Yucca, it would have eventually leaked into the environment (beginning within centuries or at most thousands of years), dooming the region downwind and downstream as a nuclear sacrifice area.
Judy Treichel, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, has published an op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun entitled "Winning the Yucca battle -- 25 years later."