Jonah Goldberg

But hey, even in the hugely unlikely scenario - and I really mean hugely unlikely - that some nuclear material did get out, it would still be in the middle of a godforsaken desert. Even what little groundwater there is there - on the edge of Death Valley - is self-contained.

Anyway, I could go on, but the science on this issue is so settled that no one really disputes it. That's one reason why we've heard so much hyperbole in recent years about how dangerous it would be to transport the waste to Yucca Mountain. Once the waste is there, it's not going to bother anybody.

The fear-mongering over these so-called "mobile Chernobyls" is bogus too. The containers can withstand virtually any imaginable attack. In tests, they even drop the things from way up high onto steel spikes and nothing happens. There have been more than 3,000 nuclear waste transports since 1964 without a single release.

Besides, if the fear is that terrorists can get their hands on this material, why is it preferable to keep the ingredients for dirty bombs at countless unguarded, disparate sites around the country? Even if transport is risky, isn't leaving this junk scattered across the country riskier? Kerry has criticized the administration for not acting fast enough to collect and secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, why does he want to prolong the process here at home?

Now, you might have heard that a recent court ruling dealt Yucca supporters and the Bush Administration a setback. Indeed, that's probably the science Kerry is referring to when he says the Yucca plan is flawed, since pretty much all of the other scientific and legal questions have been resolved.

Well, the issue here is whether or not Yucca Mountain can be guaranteed to be safe to the "public" - residing in the facility's immediate vicinity - for only the next 10,000 years or for the next 300,000 years. Yucca opponents say 10,000 years is too short. Some perspective: Humans switched from hunter-gatherers some 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Also, if we come up with better science in the next, say, 300 years, we can simply go into Yucca Mountain and pull the junk out. Or if the creators of Star Trek are right, we can beam it out.

John Kerry likes to say that the future doesn't belong to fear. OK, but why make America less safe today out for fear that in 10,000 years the desert near Death Valley might be slightly more dangerous than a chest X-ray?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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