Idaho State Journal
Idaho State Journal


Bush joins Gore in hiding on nuclear waste storage

When it comes to nuclear waste storage, it doesn't appear to make any difference who wins the White House: Both candidates would upset current proposals and offer nothing to replace them.

Republican nominee George W. Bush, seeing his lead in Nevada melting away, has promised Nevada Republicans that he would veto plans to use Yucca Mountain as a temporary storage site for high-level nuclear waste. Bush is now in line with Vice President Al Gore, who made a similar pledge at the Democratic National Convention.

Of course, its easy for the candidates to reject Yucca Mountain as a temporary storage site since plans in that direction are no longer in the works. The big issue is whether Yucca Mountain should be used as a permanent facility, an idea that Congress has already endorsed. The Senate earlier this year came within three votes of overriding President Clinton's veto of a waste-storage bill that was pushed heavily by Sen. Larry Craig.

Craig has expressed hope that Bush would be more friendly than the Clinton-Gore administration. Considering Bush s most recent stand, more lobbying work lies ahead for Craig

Bush and Gore have said they will yield to science on the nuclear waste issue. But unless the political winds change drastically, it would be difficult to imagine either candidate signing off on the idea of shipping waste to Nevada under any circumstances. Opposition to waste storage is one issue where Democratic and Republican leaders in Nevada agree.

"I can think of no issue more important to the people of Nevada than nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain," said Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn.

So no relief appears in sight for Idaho, which for many years has provided "temporary" storage at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. However, Idahoans can't be expected to live forever with nuclear waste sitting atop the Snake River Plain Aquifer, which supplies water to much of southern Idaho.

It maybe politically sound for Bush and Gore to live in denial for the final weeks of this presidential campaign. But no matter who wins, the next administration is going to have to seriously address this issue.

As the candidates have said, science should run its course. But if the best science shows that nuclear waste can be stored safely and permanently at Yucca Mountain, we hope either Bush or Gore have the political courage to get the waste stored there.