What do Yucca Mountain and Guantanamo Bay have in common?
Well, there's the obvious stuff. Both have Spanish names. Neither is a great spot for a family vacation. Each is controlled by the federal government.
Oh, and both are essential tools in wars a lot of people claim they want to win.
See, Yucca Mountain is where the government wants to keep incredibly dangerous substances - nuclear waste - until we figure out a better way to handle it.
Guantanamo Bay is where the government keeps incredibly dangerous people - jihadi enemy combatants - until we figure out a better way to handle them.
Victory in the war against climate change is inconceivable without nuclear power. Even if we turned America's breadbasket into ethanol-corn and solar farms, we wouldn't come close to reducing carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's avowed goal, compared with John McCain's target of 60 percent). Even if every American lived like a Prius-driving, vegan eco-feminist, we'd still fall far short. A recent MIT study found that even the homeless in America have twice the carbon footprint of the global average.
Clean, efficient, safe nuclear energy could force enormous savings in CO2 emissions, replacing coal- and gas-burning power plants on a scale solar never can. It also would boost America's "energy independence," a phrase environmentalists use to enlist support from Americans immune to climate fear-mongering.
Is it a silver bullet? Surely not. But expanding our nuclear energy infrastructure belongs near the top of the list of options for those who say we must do "everything in our power" to stop global warming. (I'm not one of those people, by the way.)
But generating nuclear power produces radioactive waste, so we really should find a safe place to put it. Yucca Mountain, in the Nevada desert, is just such a place. But anti-nuclear environmentalists have done everything they can to keep it from opening, largely because having a safe waste repository would make nuclear power more attractive.
Which brings me back to Guantanamo Bay, where the Yuccafication process is nearly complete.
Much like Yucca Mountain, lots of things are said about Gitmo that aren't true. Yucca is derided as unsafe, when its biggest shortcoming is that its designers can't promise that in 10,000 years a passerby who digs up waste won't be exposed to much more than a few chest X-rays' worth of radiation.