The other day, Nevada’s Republican Senator Dean Heller delivered an impassioned speech about the evils of using Yucca Mountain as the storage for the nation’s nuclear waste.

The Senator has a long history of resisting the federal storage facility at Yucca Mountain:
heller on yucca mountain – Google Search.

The only thing that is surprising in his latest speech is the audacity of trying to make it a nation-wide issue, on the most tenuous of excuses.

Perhaps we can excuse Senator Heller for having been so wrong on this issue for such a long time — my first contact with any Nevada Republican member of Congress was with him on this issue in 2010 — but of course the Senator is a lawyer, trained and professionally obligated to present and advocate for one side of an issue, not a scientist who is intellectually and morally obligated to look at all sides with equally objective impartiality.

In this speech, the Senator concentrated on the perils of transporting nuclear waste, from the other 47 contiguous or all of the other 49 states, by various means, to Yucca Mountain located some distance north of Las Vegas. Indeed that is a concern. As the Senator said, railroads and highways travel through cities and town where people live.

But the Senator failed to mention the alternative. What are we doing currently? Power plants, defense and other industries, plus hospitals and labs continue to generate nuclear waste that has to be put somewhere, but where?

I tried to find out. But this is how deep the intellectual rot has gone. The only thing they don’t say is what’s being done today:

Dig deeper and your find that the answer is, all that more or less hazardous waste is stored “IN SITU.” That means, right where it is generated. It may be an exaggeration to say that our nuclear facilities are drowning in their own waste, but they do certainly live with it. And guess what? Our nuclear facilities are also located where people live — and work. Moreover, these facilities were NOT built to be secure against any form of attack or any determined attempt to steal materials to build a “dirty bomb.”

where do hospitals dispose of nuclear waste – Google Search

I humbly submit that THIS situation is a FAR greater threat than any potential or even actual hazards of transportation — especially when, especially in the desert Southwest, there ARE safe routes away from the occasional city or town along the way. This is no mystery; just look on any map that shows highways and railways.

THIS is one example why lawyers — and law makers — should NOT be making scientific, technical or economic decisions.

Why include economic decisions in this list?

Because storing nuclear waste is just about the stupidest thing you can do with it. Nuclear waste should not be stored. Nuclear waste should be reprocessed. Reprocessed waste can be re-sold as fuel, and by some estimates it is cheaper than “virgin” fuel because it’s already been processed once. Consider this, from

the energy value in these materials is 1 Megawatt Day per gram. … calculations indicate that the value of this 70,000-ton stockpile is $14 trillion dollars when extended through the entire cycle (2013) dollars.

An inclusive reprocessing facility could cost between $33 and $45 billion but, its market value is in the trillions.

And on the issue of security,

the final selection site would be located in an expansive desert location in the Western U.S. This makes Nevada an ideal CENTRAL location for such a temporary above ground transfer facility. Nevada offers 100% security as our military test ranges provide a high-security profile over much of the desert land mass.

Reprocessing can provide high-paid jobs to thousands, right here in a vast and empty state with a small population that lives in a constant state of potential or actual or impending or imminent economic disaster. We of all people must be “smarter than the average bear” to survive, and a thriving industry with a constant source of raw material, product and customers would go a long way to provide economic stability.

Storage without reprocessing is like warehousing the sick and injured in a hospital without healing them.  And by the way, that applies to ANY “waste” product — nuclear, chemical, etc. Even biological waste is reprocessed, if by no other means then by composting. There is no such thing as waste; only recyclables that we haven’t yet figured out how to re-use economically.

In THIS case, we HAVE. How sad that this Senator, a former Senator, and past and present State officials can’t see that.