Wake-Up Call: Escape from Yucca Mountain

A billion here, a billion there -- pretty soon we're talking real money.

To be somewhat precise, $13.5 billion, which is what the federal government has spent in the more than two decades that it's proposed storing nuclear waste in an area known as Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge fewer than a hundred miles from Las Vegas. And for just as long, activists have fought the plan.

But yesterday, new Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the site is no longer an option. Instead, the feds will store the 58,000 tons of waste at power plants while they explore other options -- and any funding for further Yucca Mountain projects has been removed from the budget.

That's good news for environmentalists, good news for new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (who won't have to deal with this issue, at least) -- and stunning news for anyone with a memory for numbers. Billions of them.

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