Nevada senator Tom Daschle, the Senate Majority Leader, has said that he is unable to stop a vote over the construction of a high level nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The senator had earlier vowed to block a vote on the project but he as been defeated in this aim by the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Although Daschle had promised to block the Yucca Mountain vote if it reached the Senate, the 1982 act makes this impossible. The project can now only be killed if republicans can be persuaded to vote with democrats against the plan.

The current status of the project is that it received approval from president Bush in 15 February. The governor of Nevada has promised to veto the president’s approval. If he does so, the senate then has to vote on whether to approve the veto. Currently Nevada does not appear to have sufficient support to prevent the governor’s veto being rejected and the Yucca Mountain high level repository being constructed.

America’s nuclear waste repository has had a long and tortuous history. The government has been seeking a suitable site for at least 20 years and had finally settled on Yucca Mountain as the best option. If that is rejected, it is not clear how the nuclear waste disposal problem will be solved.