"It is among the nastiest substances on earth: more than 14,000 tons of highly radioactive waste left over from the building of the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.
As the Obama administration and Senate leaders move to scuttle a proposed repository for the waste in Nevada, the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state — along with federal facilities in Idaho and South Carolina — could become the de facto dump sites for years to come.
After spending $10 billion to $12 billion over the past 25 years studying a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, President Barack Obama is fulfilling a campaign promise to kill it as a site for the repository. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also stands to benefit, as polls show he could be in a tough fight for re-election next year, and Nevada residents adamantly oppose a the waste site.
Local leaders and lawmakers from the sites where the waste is now stored, however, are increasingly concerned that the Energy Department will leave it in place, even though that might violate legally binding cleanup agreements.
There's no backup plan for dealing with the waste. A promised commission to study the issue has yet to be appointed."
Les Blumenthal reports for McClatchy Newspapers August 20, 2009.