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Yucca Mountain

2002-7-18

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish Environment Report.

Last week, the United States Senate gave final congressionalapproval for a project to bury nuclear waste material under YuccaMountain in the state of Nevada. The project calls for burying morethan seventy-thousand tons of radioactive nuclear waste material.

The material includes used nuclearfuel from power centers and waste from the production of nuclearweapons. The waste is now stored at power centers around thecountry. However, these power centers have little storage spaceleft.

The federal government owns Yucca Mountain. No one lives there.It is in an extremely dry area more than one-hundred-forty-fivekilometers northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The dispute about burying nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain hascontinued for many years. Bush Administration officials support thenuclear waste burial project. They say it is scientificallyacceptable. They say the area is a good place to bury nuclear wastebecause of its lack of population and low rainfall.

They also say placing all of thecountry's nuclear waste in one place would help protect againstterrorist attacks in other parts of the country. Supporters of theplan say it is important for the future of the nuclear powerindustry.

However, there is much opposition to the plan. Opponents includeenvironmental groups, Nevada state officials and many members ofCongress. They say the area is near inactive volcanoes and hasexperienced earthquakes. Movements in the earth could spread theradioactive material. Opponents say the rock might not be able tohold the waste and keep it from entering water underground.

Opponents also say the dangerous nuclear waste would have to betransported by trucks and trains across about forty states. Theyfear accidents or threats from terrorists could endanger thepopulation in many areas.

Now that Congress has approved the plan, the Energy Departmentmust request and receive permission for the project from the NuclearRegulatory Commission. The Energy Department must provide evidenceabout the safety of the project. Supporters of the project hope itwill begin in two-thousand-ten. However, opponents say they willcontinue to fight against it.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written byJerilyn Watson.