Here’s the latest chapter in the now 18-year Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste controversy: According to its press release this week, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed "public health standards for the planned high-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev., that will protect public health for 1 million years."
One million. That’s a number that jumps out and grabs you. The EPA was responding to a court ruling that found an earlier standard, for a relatively brisk 10,000 years, didn’t go far enough.
So the agency tacked on a regulation limiting radiation exposure for another 990,000 years. Human beings in their recognizable modern form have only been around for 150,000 years or so — some say as long as 195,000 — and only spread out of Africa and into the rest of the world 28,000 years ago.
Talk about hubris. Not only does the standard assume that we’ll still be around, but that a federal appellate court will be around to enforce it. Then again, maybe the EPA knows something the rest of us don’t. Maybe by then radioactivity will be good for you.