Yucca Mountain

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Tour group entering the north portal of Yucca Mountain in 2002
Splitting more than hairs
Nuclear energy
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Ionizing pages

Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is a fantastically expensive[1] hole in the ground which was intended to be used as United States' primary civilian nuclear waste storage facility. It is located near the Nevada Test Site, which is already contaminated with radioactive materials due to being the location of many atmospheric and underground nuclear weapon tests. The construction of Yucca Mountain has been held up for decades[2] by hippie treehugger scum Nevada residents who are not amused by the previous nuclear-related activity of the U.S. federal government in their state. The potential repository was also the frequent target of the anti-nuclear movement.

During debate over its creation, legislators in the state of Nevada had become so infuriated by the Yucca Mountain site that, in 1987, they created "Bullfrog County," an uninhabited 144 mi2 area around the site which they designated a county, even though the area had no roads, no buildings of any kind, and barely any life at all. The only thing it did have was a property tax rate of 20%, or $5 of every $100 valued, the highest allowed by the state's constitution. The thinking went that were the waste site to be constructed, the federal government would be stuck with a yearly bill of $25 million directly to the state government.[3] Apparently no one in the state government knew about Supremacy Clause (Article 6) in the United States Constitution: this is why the US government never pays state taxes. Unsurprisingly, this rather kooky scheme failed; the site was built anyway, and Bullfrog County was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court a year later.[4]

Barack Obama declared in 2009 that the Yucca Mountain repository plan would be abandoned, mainly as a political deal between Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). However, it appears that the Department of Energy is not allowed to change its waste disposal plan at will due to legal reasons.[5] The future of the repository is still uncertain, but any substantial progress appears unlikely. Alternative solutions, such as long term above ground storage, reprocessing, and burning the waste in fast reactors are being investigated. As of February 2015, the new chair of the Senate energy panel, Lamar Alexander, is hoping to resurrect the project.[6]

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