Doc Hastings has sent a timely and important question to President Obama:
What about Yucca Mountain?
Rep. Hastings, R-Wash., was more delicate, more diplomatic than we phrased it above, but the substance was there.
In a carefully worded letter, Hastings asked Obama to share with Congress his plans for disposing of nuclear waste.
"I write to inquire about the status of your plan to develop a new option for our nation's defense waste and commercial high-level nuclear spent fuel," Hastings wrote.
Twice in the one letter he mentions the need for scientific justification for whichever site is chosen.
Yucca Mountain was the spot chosen after just such a scientific search, and it was written into law by Congress.
But Obama campaigned against using Yucca Mountain as a repository for spent nuclear materials and has said his administration will not be sending material there.
The administration says it will name a blue ribbon panel to look into it.
Being in the minority party could work to Doc's disadvantage in this, but his letter is eminently justified and deserves an answer.
As we noted in our editorial recommending Obama for president last year:
"We wish he were more enthusiastic on nuclear energy. It is a definite plus for (Sen. John) McCain that he is a strong supporter of that clean technology as one of the tools out of our dependence upon Middle Eastern oil."
Undoubtedly it is Sen. Harry Reid's position as Senate majority leader that influenced the president's decision. Reid represents Nevada, the home of Yucca Mountain, in the Senate. He is adamantly opposed to opening the Yucca Mountain site.
Most Nevadans, according to polls, don't want the site opened either.
But Reid is in deep trouble at home from other causes.
If liberals do not support Reid when he comes up for re-election next year, he could be on his way out. Some groups threaten to withhold support for him in 2010 if he doesn't get a public option for the health care plan to the Senate floor.
Even as things stand now, one recent poll (Mason-Dixon) showed Reid trailing two possible, relatively unknown, Republican challengers. It found that real estate developer Danny Tarkanian led Reid 48 percent to 43 percent while former GOP party official Sue Lowden led Reid by 49 percent to 39 percent.
"Clearly, any decision about the disposition of commercial nuclear spent fuel and weapons complex high level waste will directly impact the communities I represent in Congress," Hastings wrote the president.
"I would appreciate an update on your efforts to address the federal government's nuclear waste storage obligations. Specifically: 1) what are the scientific reasons why Yucca Mountain is not a feasible option, 2) how long will the new studies take and how much will they cost, 3) what will be studied, 4) will the blue ribbon commission have the freedom to study any option they deem appropriate -- including Yucca Mountain, 5) will sites that were previously considered, such as Hanford, be studied, and 6) how and when will members of the blue ribbon panel be selected?"
We're glad Rep. Hastings put them to the president, and we, like him, look forward to the president's response.