Don't sue over Yucca

Decision on nuclear waste storage must not rest with courts

We completely reject the Obama administration's decision to scrap the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository in Nevada.


The decision reverses decades of solid research and preparation to store the nation's nuclear byproducts in one safe, secure location. It leaves the country with no Plan B. It risks making nuclear facilities such as the CSRA's Savannah River Site, and every other nuclear location in the country, a permanent dumping ground -- an unmitigated breaking of faith with those of us who have toiled with the understanding that there was a coherent plan to the contrary.

Moreover, it comes at an odd juncture, as the president supports growing the nuclear power industry.

It was a plan that boasted a scientific consensus dwarfing the alleged sure-fire consensus surrounding global warming -- back when there wasn't as much doubt about warming as there is now.

Somehow, a real scientific consensus in regard to Yucca means nothing to the Obama administration.

Having said that, we also defend the administration's right to change course.

Absent a veto-proof majority of the U.S. Congress saying otherwise, the executive branch of the government is, as President Bush might say, the "decider" in this case.

So, while we disagree utterly with its decision, we must look askance at the lawsuit our friends in Aiken, S.C., have brought against the administration, and other legal maneuvers being contemplated by the state or others.

If anything, South Carolina might be able to convince the courts that it is owed some sort of damages for the millions it has contributed toward the development of Yucca Mountain over the years.

Otherwise, though, we believe lawsuits will only bleed money and prop up false hope; it's almost a certainty that the courts will recognize, as they should, the right of the executive and legislative branches to first set policy, then change course largely as they see fit -- especially in matters of national security. The judicial branch, most often, is correctly loath to substitute its judgment for that of the other branches. That's precisely how our system of government is designed to work.

That's not to say we should take the decision lying down -- except maybe in the road, as former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges once suggested he might do in order to stop federal plutonium shipments going to SRS. (It's instructive to note that Hodges also tried to use the courts to stop the shipments and failed.)

This is a matter that must be dealt with in the executive and legislative branches. Indeed, it's likely the decision is based on politics alone: Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, seeking re-election in November, is losing in polls back home. Perhaps the president is trying to gin up support for Reid by closing down Yucca Mountain.

If the Obama administration will not reverse course, and Congress doesn't force it to, then perhaps state legislatures could find ways to intervene.

Most likely this is a matter that will be resolved only at the ballot box -- with the election of a Congress and/or president willing to let science and security rule the day instead of politics.



Sun, 01/21/2018 - 20:15

The shadow of a missile