Senate approves national nuclear dump site
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MAP: Tribes located near Yucca Mountain site.

PDF: Sites where waste is currently stored.
The Senate on Tuesday approved a plan to store up to 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste on traditional Western Shoshone land in Nevada.

By a vote of 60 to 39, the chamber overrode Nevada's official April veto to Yucca Mountain, located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) yesterday promised to continue fighting in court.

"The Department of Energy and the nuclear industry will no longer be able to hide behind the political process and wield their influence to move the Yucca Mountain agenda," he said.

Although licensing and other other hurdles remain, the vote clears the way for implementation of a key component of President Bush's national energy policy. The GOP-controlled House already approved Yucca Mountain in May.

As for the Senate, 45 Republicans and 15 Democrats supported the Bush administration's push to consolidate waste that has been piling up at a rate of 2,000 tons per year. Only three Republicans -- including Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colo.), the vice-chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee -- joined a chorus of critics who question the project's suitability.

Among the detractors are tribes that still consider Yucca Mountain part of their historic territory. Promised to the Western Shoshone Nation in an 1863 treaty, there is little hope of getting the land back.

Tribes elsewhere are more than willing to endorse storage facilities. The Prairie Island Tribe of Minnesota, which lobbied the Senate heavily in recent weeks, lives next door to one of the 131 sites nationwide whose waste is now destined for Nevada.

The Skull Valley Goshute Tribe of Utah is also in the nuclear game and has agreed to store up to 44,000 tons from eight specific locations of waste on its reservation. The tribe will most likely beat the federal government's anticipated 2010 opening date for Yucca Mountain.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham welcomed yesterday's vote. "America's national, energy and homeland security, as well as environmental protection is well-served by siting a single nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain," he said.

Relevant Links:
The Yucca Mountain Project, Department of Energy -
Nuclear Waste Project Office -

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