Environmental Racism Behind Plan to Store Nuke Waste Under Yucca Mountain:Tribes

Wikipedia/ Yucca Mountain

A proposal to store nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain, shelved by President Barack Obama in 2010, has been revived.

And both the Western Shoshone and Timbisha Shoshone tribes have termed the plan “environmental racism.”

In August the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released an environmental impact report on the proposal, which involves carving 40 miles of tunnels under sacred Yucca Mountain and burying 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste there. The fact that even a small portion of that radioactivity would leach into the groundwater, potentially affecting the purity of American Indian springs in Death Valley in neighboring California, has many residents turned against the project, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on September 26. They voiced their concerns at a meeting before an NRC panel on September 15.

“From our perspective the processes employed by the DOE is environmental racism designed to systematically dismantle the living ‘lifeways’ of the Western Shoshone people in relation to our land,” said Western Shoshone member Ian Zabarte, a board member of the Native Community Action Council, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The organization is authorized to give testimony during the licensing proceedings, the newspaper said.

It’s not about the amount of radioactivity that would permeate the groundwater, the Western Shoshone said. The environmental racism lies in the very notion that it would be okay to put any radioactive material there at all.

Confidence is not inspired by the handling of previous waste sites. A New Mexico facility remains closed as cleanup continues at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico stemming from a February 2014 accident that unmasked numerous safety violations there and at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the waste had been processed. As recently as early September, more violations were found at the lab, the Associated Press reported on September 5.