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Located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Yucca Mountain is the proposed, any only legal location in the United States, for the storage of nuclear waste products. Composed of the aptly named tuff, a very strong stone created during volcanic eruptions, Yucca Mountain has been deemed by geologists to be geologically stable.
Since the 1982 passage by Congress of the United States Nuclear Waste Act the country has been legally required to have someplace to store its radioactive waste. Currently this waste is stored in 121 facilities across the country.
Despite local opposition the United States Congress approved the site in 2002, but in 2009 the Obama Administration, despite Nuclear Regulatory Committee insistence that he did not have the authority, announced that the plan had been scrubbed.
Due to open on January 31st, 1998, construction delays and ongoing legal issues have plagued the Yucca Mountain Project. To date the site has not accepted any radioactive material.
While the issue is complicated the basics behind the battle are easily understood. The United States needs a location to store all of its spent nuclear waste material, be it commercial or military in origin. The residents of Nevada, especially those residing in Las Vegas, residents of neighboring states and environmentalists are opposed.
Opposition groups cite Nevada’s lack of nuclear power plants, environmental issues and the potential for disaster since the Bow Ridge fault line runs under the area. Pro-Yucca Mountain advocates site a desperate national need, the suitability of the site and the presence of the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range and the Nevada Test Site.
Opposition vs. Proponents
Longtime Nevada Senator Harry Reid has fought the site for decades. As Senate Majority leader he has so far had the clout to block the site "Yucca Mountain is dead. It'll never happen," he said in 2009.
With a Republican Majority back in control of the House of Representatives, it remains to be seen whether or not his promise can be kept.
For the near future Nevada residents need not worry about nuclear waste being stored in their state. Due to delays in construction, budgetary issues and legal challenges the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste repository will not be ready till at least 2017.
Political battles are ongoing, protests will continue and sometime sooner than later the United States will have to find a solution to this problem. It remains to be seen what part Yucca Mountain plays.