Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository
The amount of nuclear waste in the United States continues to build, with an estimated 18,000 tons produced each year. Most agree that building a central repository to store all this hazardous waste is a good idea, but no one wants that type of storage facility in their backyard – or even in their state.
In 1987, after years of research, the U.S. Congress decided to focus on Yucca Mountain (near Las Vegas, Nevada) as a potential site for a nuclear waste repository. Numerous stop-and-go efforts continued over the years with President Barack Obama finally canning the project in 2009 – but that’s not the end, since several proponents are still pushing for reconsideration.
While the Yucca Mountain debacle is big news, it’s not really that uncommon. A lot of long-term government projects have trouble maintaining continuous, ongoing project sponsorship and that lack of a champion often leads to project failure and/or abandonment. The problem is that most sponsors of government projects are elected officials, who may or may not still be in office next term. To make things worse, if a sponsor is not re-elected to his position, the person who takes his place often has opposing political views – so, that replacement may not only be unsupportive, he may be downright against the project.
What will become of Yucca Mountain? Who knows, but with $9 billion already spent researching the site, we have to hope at least some lessons were learned.