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In the Crossfire

Can nuclear waste be transported safely?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Senate must decide soon on whether to move ahead with plans to build the nation's first permanent nuclear waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

A divided Senate energy panel last week approved a resolution supporting President Bush's decision on the Yucca Mountain nuclear site. The full Senate has until July 25 to act on the resolution if the project is to continue. The House already has agreed to set aside Nevada's veto of the Bush plan.

Opponents said they fear transporting nuclear waste to Nevada could create a target for terrorists. With news this week of an alleged "dirty bomb" plot, these critics question whether it's the best time to put nuclear waste on the nation's railroads and roadways. "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala debate the issue.

CARLSON: I have to say that transporting nuclear waste across the country sounds terrifying, and of course I understand it. I feel sorry for Sen. John Ensign [a Nevada Republican]. The people of his state are against it, but let's be honest here. There are nuclear materials everywhere. They're in doctors' offices. They're used to irradiate food. They're in all sorts of technical instruments. They're in your smoke detector in your house. They're in the granite on the street.

This is a scare tactic devised by people who represent the voters of Nevada. That's all it is.

BEGALA: If that material is just as safe as you say ...

CARLSON: I'm not saying it's safe.

BEGALA: If it's just as safe as mother's milk, why do we have to put it in these impregnable casks? Why? Because it's high-level, radioactive waste. It is highly lethal and highly attractive to terrorists. I love the idea that they've designed these shipment containers, but we don't need to put them on wheels ...

CARLSON: But ...

BEGALA: Leave them right at the site. By the way, as Sen. Ensign pointed out, there's still going to be waste at those sites anyway. So now instead of 131 sites ...

CARLSON: I love this.

BEGALA: ... we're going to have 132, plus hundreds of trucks rolling around --Winnebagos with nuclear waste in them.

CARLSON: You're making two arguments simultaneously. The first is because it's not perfect, we shouldn't do it all. And the second is the same argument made for Social Security ...

BEGALA: It's ...

CARLSON: ... it's just too darn scary. Let me put it this way. France ... moves vast amounts of nuclear waste around the country every year, far more than the United States does. And like the United States, it has done it for many decades without a single injury. This is a very dangerous product, but it is handled in a very safe manner by the federal government. And I think it will continue to be.

BEGALA: You have great faith in the federal government, my friend. On that front, you're learning. But no, not enough faith to let this stuff roll around. Besides, the political aspect of this is most aggravating to people in Nevada and I think the rest of America ...

CARLSON: The rest of America.

BEGALA: ... Bush lied. He went to Nevada ...

CARLSON: Oh, please. Oh, please.

BEGALA: Dick Cheney went to Nevada before the election and said, "We won't put the nuclear storage facility in your state unless the science gets better, improves it."


BEGALA: The science has gotten worse. Bush went back on his word.




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