When it comes to deciding what to do about trucks hauling high-level nuclear waste to the nation's first N-dump - a site proposed for Yucca Mountain in southwest Nevada - Utah cannot act alone and expect to get very far.
If such a dump is built - it has been proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy and hearings are being held in Congress - the amount of nuclear waste transported through Utah could reach 3,000 tons a year.Gov. Norm Bangerter is correct in wanting some significant local control over the movement of such materials, including special fees to be levied on truckers of radioactive waste.
Yet the fee issue is particularly sensitive because Utah cannot impose such fees alone without hurting the state's transportation industry. All the Western states at least would have to act in concert.
Bangerter's argument apparently struck a responsive chord with other state chief executives at the Western Governors Conference just concluded in Seattle.
The group wisely adopted Bangerter's resolution that any federal assessment of the Nevada dump site be expanded to consider concerns of states along the transportation corrider.
National standards for transporting nuclear waste should be adopted, but those rules should be worked out in cooperation with the states. If the West speaks with one voice, it will more likely get the attention it deserves.
Bangerter would prefer that the dump not be built in the West. Too often, Eastern states routinely view the wide open spaces of the Rocky Mountains as a convenient dumping ground. That attitude should be resisted whenever possible.
Because most of the nuclear waste produced in the U.S. comes from the East, it would make better sense to build small dumps close to the sources, instead of hauling the radioactive material clear across the country. The more transporting, the greater the chance of mishaps.
But if a dump is going to be constructed in Nevada, let's at least give Utah and others impacted by such a decision some voice in what happens in their respective states. As the governors have acknowledged, that can best be achieved by working together.