Friday, November 25, 2011

Current Political Issue

Map showing the location of Yucca Mountain in ...Image via Wikipedia

A burning political issue that failed to materialize in the past and is currently being debated on is the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal. Historically, America’s two major political parties, Republicans and Democrats, have been divided on the issue of burying nuclear waste in the Yucca Mountain of Nevada. The issue of disposing nuclear waste in the projected area has been receiving outcries from various sectors of American society for sometime. Meeting in Las Vegas last October, Republican presidential contenders debated the proposed disposal of nuclear waste in Nevada (NYT, 2011).

Divisions have been emerging among legislatures every time the nuclear disposal proposal popped up such that it has become a subject without a definite solution. Nuclear waste is dangerous to fauna and flora and its future consequences on life after disposal remain indefinable. However, there has to be a geologically reliable and suitable place to dispose off the remaining waste that has been idle for sometime. Despite some republican presidential contenders voicing their rejection at burying the dangerous waste in Yucca Mountain, there are higher expectations that the upcoming convention in Spartanburg, SC, will yield better results.

South Carolina is home to some of the oldest nuclear power plants producing tritium and plutonium for making bombs. The states of Washington and South Carolina that possess bomb making factories filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to force the commission to assess the suitability of Yucca Mountain. Gregory Yaczko who headed the commission finally presented his evaluation of the Yucca Mountain project. Yaczko is the former aide of Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader. Harry Reid, a native of Nevada, nullified the evaluation after the Energy Department pulled out of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project.

According to the Examiner (2010), supporters of nuclear energy belief that it is a clean source of energy that does not create pollution while opponents are of the view that it is a dangerous source that can remain active for thousands of years. Majority of Republican lawmakers support the Yucca Mountain initiative while Democrats oppose it. President Obama has been opposed to the Yucca project because he believes that it is a health hazard to Nevadans and millions of Americans.

According to NYT (2011), Ron Paul and Mitt Romney received applause from the audience in the Las Vegas debate when they decried why Nevada should be the only state to accept the depository while the other 49 states are unwilling to receive the nuclear waste. In the same meeting, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum did not get the chance to respond to the question of the nuclear disposal. Jon M. Huntsman who did not take in the debate is said to be against the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal. Newt Gingrich felt that it was geologically safe to dispose off the disputed waste since the site is 100 miles from Las Vegas.

In essence, there is the absence of bipartisanship in reaching a consensus on the Yucca Mountain nuclear disposal issue. Democracy is about deliberating, making concessions, and coming to agreement. Unfortunately, that is not the case in modern American politics because whoever has the upper hand makes the final decisions. According to Raney and Kendall (1951, p. 434), democracy “necessarily involves more than just universal suffrage and elected representatives; it also requires that those representatives decide this way rather than that”. Keeping the final evaluation papers under lock and key must be a political success for Harry Reid who is a native Nevadan and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party. For Nevadans, their “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) struggle has so far materialized because they do not have to worry about hazardous materials affecting their health and those of future generations as long as Obama and Harry Reid are in office.


Examiner (2010).Yucca Mountain: Bipartisan effort opposes Obama administration's actions. Retrieved from

NYT (2011). Nuclear waste is likely to come up at next debate. Retrieved from

Ranney, A., & Kendall, W. (1951). Democracy: Confusion and agreement. Political Research Quarterly, 4(3), 430–439.
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