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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - July 19, 2002: Yucca Mountain - 2002-07-18

This is the VOA Special English Environment Report.

Last week, the United States Senate gave final congressional approval for a project to bury nuclear waste material under Yucca Mountain in the state of Nevada. The project calls for burying more than seventy-thousand tons of radioactive nuclear waste material.

The material includes used nuclear fuel from power centers and waste from the production of nuclear weapons. The waste is now stored at power centers around the country. However, these power centers have little storage space left.

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

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

They also say placing all of the country’s nuclear waste in one place would help protect against terrorist attacks in other parts of the country. Supporters of the plan say it is important for the future of the nuclear power industry.

However, there is much opposition to the plan. Opponents include environmental groups, Nevada state officials and many members of Congress. They say the area is near inactive volcanoes and has experienced earthquakes. Movements in the earth could spread the radioactive material. Opponents say the rock might not be able to hold the waste and keep it from entering water underground.

Opponents also say the dangerous nuclear waste would have to be transported by trucks and trains across about forty states. They fear accidents or threats from terrorists could endanger the population in many areas.

Now that Congress has approved the plan, the Energy Department must request and receive permission for the project from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Energy Department must provide evidence about the safety of the project. Supporters of the project hope it will begin in two-thousand-ten. However, opponents say they will continue to fight against it.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.