25 years ago today, the "Screw Nevada Bill" was passed

Yucca Mountain as viewed through the frame of a Western Shoshone ceremonial sweat lodge. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.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.


30 years ago today, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed

As the U.S. Congress currently debates (or rather, does't debate) the infamous "Fiscal Cliff," it took the country off a bottomless cliff 30 years ago today, by passing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The NWPA shifted liability for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel, from the utilities which generated it (and profited mightily thereby), to the American people: first, ratepayers have paid tens of billions of dollars in nuclear generated electricity surcharges, into the Nuclear Waste Fund; then, when that still falls short of the price tag, taxpayers will be left holding the bag for the rest. 

As written by John D'Agata in his 2010 book About a Mountain:

"...On November 22, 1982, Senator James McClure [Republican from Idaho], the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a bill that was written by the American Nuclear Energy Council [now called the Nuclear Energy Institute] calling for the disposal of nuclear waste...He pushed his bill through committee in an hour and a half, then sent it to the floor for an expedited vote.

It arrived there on the evening of December 21, just hours before the Senate recessed for Christmas break.

Within thirteen minutes, and without a single minute of debate, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was voted into law.

'I would like the meet the Senator,' said one observer that night, 'who call tell us what he thinks is even in this bill.'"(page 35)

President Ronald Reagan then signed the NWPA into law early the next year. That "expedicted vote," Reagan's stroke of the pen in the Oval Office, and the U.S. Department of Energy's rushed signing of contracts to "take out the garbage" represented an unprecedented subsidy for the nuclear power industry. The American taxpayer currently forks over $500 million per year in damages to nuclear utilities for failing to begin disposing of irradiated nuclear fuel in a deep geologic repository in 1998. More.


Federal government whistleblower protections strengthened

Richard H. Perkins, top, and Lawrence CriscioneAs London Guardian readers elect U.S. whistleblower Bradley Manning as Person of the Year, there is more good news on the whistleblower front in the U.S. as well. As reported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act has been signed into law, after more than a decade of campaigning.

This comes just in the nick of time for two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) whistleblowers, Richard H. Perkins and Lawrence Criscione (photos, left). The two NRC Staffers have warned, independently, that NRC has not only neglected, but even covered up, the risk of meltdowns at U.S. atomic reactors due to flooding caused by dam failures, as at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles about this story (see the most recent one here).



Entergy Watch: Indian Point, Palisades, Vermont Yankee

Entergy Watch is a campaign to bridge the resistance communities living in the shadows of Entergy's dirty dozen atomic reactors across the U.S., shown here on this map posted at Entergy Nuclear's websiteU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearings resumed at Indian Point, NY -- the most contested 20-year license extension proceeding yet. Beyond Nuclear and allies protested NRC's restoration of top-notch safety status to the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in MI. And New England Coalition appealed to the State of Vermont's Supreme Court to order the shutdown of Vermont Yankee due its lack of a Certificate of Public Good from the State of Vermont's Public Service Board. More.


2,000 march against nuclear power in Tokyo