The late Everett Dirksen is credited with saying "A billion here and a billion there, and soon you're talking about real money."
Because Dirksen died in 1969, he couldn't have been talking about Yucca Mountain. But the Republican senator from Illinois knew then how large government had become - a behemoth that normal folks could no longer comprehend.
The plan to store radioactive waste inside a mountain in south-central Nevada would be the nation's largest single public-works project at $58 billion, a number we simply can't wrap our minds around.
Perhaps it would help Carson City residents to think of their new hospital and realize that, for the cost of Yucca Mountain, the government could build approximately 439 more hospitals just like it. Every county in Nevada could have 25 new hospitals.
Much of the money that will build Yucca Mountain isn't tax dollars, although taxpayers are funding its research at $460 million a year. Electricity customers served by the nuclear-power industry pay for it every month on their bills. The money collects in a fund to fulfill Congress' promise to solve the problem of where to store the radioactive waste.
A number people can easily comprehend is two - as in double. That's what's happened to the estimate for a railroad across some of Nevada's roughest mountain terrain to carry nuclear waste. It's gone from $1 billion to $2 billion without a shovel of dirt being turned.
It was also Everett Dirksen who said "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." To which we would add: There is nothing so wasteful as an idea whose time has passed.