On Your Side: Digging deeper at Yucca Mountain

Dig deeper at Yucca Mountain this Monday at 5 and 6 p.m.

Yucca Mountain hasn't made headlines for quite some time, but with the recent shift in political power, the debate over the proposed nuclear waste repository could reemerge.

The debate over The Yucca Mountain Project is clear: some support it; others don't.

What's not clear to many Americans is where the project stands today.

And, to understand the project's current status, you have to go back to when it started.

In 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which directed the Department of Energy to study Yucca Mountain as a storage site for used nuclear fuel. The site sits about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

"I don't think it's fair that Nevada is the only site that's being studied," said Michael Voegele, senior scientist on the Yucca Mountain Project. "Be that as it may, it is the only site being studied."

Voegele is now retired, but he's still on a mission.

"My goal in life is not to see Yucca Mountain operational as a repository. My immediate goal is to demonstrate to the world that the scientists who studied Yucca Mountain did a good job," Voegele said.

Voegele and dozens of other scientists spent two decades studying the site.

In 2008, a construction license application was filed by the Federal Government for a repository at Yucca Mountain.

In 2010, however, President Barack Obama stopped the review process.

"I don't know if Yucca Mountain is safe today, because we haven't had a chance to hear all the states concerns in an adjudicated court. I happen to think we did a good job in the science, but that doesn't mean there couldn't be something we missed," Voegele said.

While politics plays a huge role in the project, Voegele wants the public to know that science is science.

"There's nothing in it for these scientists," he said. "I mean, they're not getting dollars put in their pockets by saying the science is good or the science is bad. And, if you knew most of these scientists, I think you'd understand that if there was something wrong they'd be out there trumpeting it."

Though the project and final review process were halted by the Obama Administration, the future is fuzzy.

"I know where Mrs. (Hillary) Clinton was with respect to her position, previously, but I really don't know where (Donald) Trump is," Voegele said.

Voegele isn't alone, no one really knows where President-elect Donald Trump stands on the issue; he avoided a straight answer when asked about it last month by KSNV reporter Jim Snyder.

Have questions or comments? Connect with Madison and Cassie on Facebook.

To watch Cassie Wilson's report on nuclear energy in Nevada, click here.

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