After two decades of study and fervent protests from Nevada, President Bush signed a bill Tuesday making Yucca Mountain, some 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, the US's central repository for nuclear waste. Bush signed the measure with no fanfare. Reporters were not allowed to witness the bill-signing and no one from Nevada's congressional delegation was invited. However, four lawmakers who are strong backers of the project were present. Bush has long backed Yucca Mountain as a repository site, formally recommending it in February. Nevada filed a formal protest as was its right under a 1982 nuclear waste law leaving it for Congress to make a final decision. The House approved it in May, the Senate this month. The state has five lawsuits pending against the project, and the Energy Department must still get a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That process could take up to five years. Even some Yucca supporters admit that plans to open the site by 2010 may be too optimistic.
Critics complained that there were still far too many questions about the Yucca site and transportation safety issues. Environmentalists dubbed the planned waste shipments 'mobile Chernobyl', seeing a disaster in the making as the radioactive cargo moves past major cities, over bridges and through tunnels on its way to Nevada.