Sunday, August 07, 2005

Under Yucca Mountain

Under Yucca Mountain

Under Yucca Mountain (2000)

From Public Citizen (January, 2005):

Yucca Mountain is located about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, which is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States with a population approaching 2 million people. The DOE is proposing to build tunnels to store the highly radioactive waste at 1,000 feet below the very top of the mountain, which is 1,000 feet above the water table.

The ground under the Yucca Mountain site is crisscrossed by 33 fault lines and is nicknamed “Serpent Swimming West” by the Western Shoshone Indian nation due to its constant movement. Nevada ranks third in the nation for current seismic activity. A 1992 earthquake 12 miles from the site registered 5.6 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes could cause the casks in the surface facility, which is slated to hold as much as 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel in vertical dry casks, to break open and release radiation.

Yucca Mountain is made up of thick, 8 to 12 million-year-old ash deposits from a series of nearby volcanic eruptions. The younger volcanic cones in the area were most active 1 million years ago, but the latest activity at the youngest cone is only about 80,000 years old. If the volcanic cones were to become active, magma could enter the underground tunnels and cause the canisters to fail instantaneously, releasing radiation to the groundwater or in the case of a major eruption, to the air as contaminated ash. The DOE, NRC and Nevada geologists are still debating the likelihood and the severity of the radiation dose to the public as a result of volcanic activity. After 20 years, data collection and analyses are still under way on this critical -- but unresolved -- issue.


One of the biggest myths perpetuated by the Bush administration is that the Yucca Mountain dump is the “solution” to our nuclear waste problem. With waste in one place, the administration argues, it will no longer be stored at sites throughout the country and be vulnerable to theft and terrorism.

This is wrong. Nuclear waste, which is produced at every operating reactor, must be stored on site for about five years before it can be transported, because it is too radioactive to move. This means that at least five years worth of spent fuel (100-150 metric tons) will always remain at reactors as long as they continue to operate.

Each year, the 103 nuclear reactors in the United States generate about 2,000 metric tons of waste, which most people do not realize will remain extremely radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Today, approximately 50,000 metric tons sit at sites around the country, awaiting a permanent storage site. According to the DOE, by the time Yucca Mountain is filled to its legal limit of 70,000 metric tons, approximately 42,000 metric tons of nuclear waste will be stored at 63 sites in 31 states – still almost as much as there is now. As long as we continue to use nuclear power, it is not possible to consolidate spent fuel.


Transportation routes to Yucca Mountain, by rail, road and barge, would pass through as many as 44 states and the District of Columbia, putting the dangerous waste within half a mile of 50 million people. The nuclear industry often touts its good record on nuclear transport, but since the dawn of the nuclear age 50 years ago, there have been just 3,025 high-level waste shipments in the United States. In the past decade, there have been only a few shipments involving relatively small amounts of irradiated fuel over very short distances. The magnitude and duration of this proposal to transport 70,000 metric tons of the country’s spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste to one national site is outside the current realm of experience. More waste would be shipped in the first year alone than has been shipped in the United States in the past three decades.

Under the plan the DOE has selected, more than 22,000 shipments would be made by rail and truck, and almost 3,000 shipments would be made by barge over 38 years, averaging about 658 shipments per year. At sites that do not have rail access, the DOE plans to ship thousands of casks by barge through densely populated cities, including Boston, Baltimore, Newark and Miami. According to Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, as many as 390 accidents and 2,400 regulatory violations can be expected as a result of these shipments.

And I'm going down, all the way down / I'm on the highway to hell...

A Tunnel at Yucca Mountain

From -- "USGS May Have Falsified Yucca Mountain Research" (May, 2005):

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has initiated an investigation into allegations by its own employees that data used in suitability studies done six years ago on the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository located in Nevada may have been falsified.

In a brief press statement USGS Director Chip Groat reveals that the Department of Energy had notified the Department of the Interior that e-mails by USGS employees had raised serious questions about the Yucca Mountain review process.

USGS employees involved in studying water infiltration and climate at the Yucca Mountain site during the 1998-2000 period, are alleged to have committed "improprieties" after moving into the quality assurance phase imposed by the Department of Energy to begin the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing process.

The e-mails indicated that the USGS employees may have falsified documentation of their work.

From the Reno Gazette Journal (April, 2005):

WASHINGTON — A House committee released nearly 100 pages of documents Friday in which government employees talked about falsifying research to try to make sure a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada moved forward.

“So I’ve made up the dates and names … this is as good as it’s going to get,” one e-mail message said. “If they need more proof, I will be happy to make up more stuff.”


Other quotes in the e-mail:

* “In the end, I keep track of two sets of files, the ones that will keep QA (quality assurance) happy and the ones that were actually used.”

* “YMP (Yucca Mountain project) has now reached a point where they need to have certain items work no matter what and the infiltration maps are on that list.”

Joe Egan, an attorney working on Nevada’s fight against the Yucca Mountain project, said the e-mail essentially shows that water would infiltrate the nuclear repository, corrode the casks housing the atomic fuel and release radioactive material.

“The big picture is that the mountain flunked,” said Egan, who is also a nuclear engineer.

“These e-mails have finally blown the lid off this fraudulent and ill-conceived project,” said U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. “I’m stunned by the number of references to deleting and destroying e-mails, fudging information and not telling anyone how something was done.”

They don't call these sites a dump for nothin'...

This Toilet Could Run for 10,000+ Years.

And, finally, from this week's New Yorker (August 8 and 15, 2005) -- "Minority Retort" by Elsa Walsh -- an article on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

"But this President [George W. Bush] is totally different. He takes after his mother. It’s either his way or no way. It’s very, very difficult." Even Reid seemed surprised by the depth of his reaction. "I’m sorry to give you this report on President Bush," he said, "but that’s how I feel."


What happened between him and Bush?..."First of all, he started out on a real bad foot with me because of Yucca Mountain" -- a site a hundred miles northwest of Las Vegas, which the federal government wants to use as long-term storage for tens of thousands of tons of radioactive waste. Al Gore opposed this plan in the 2000 campaign, and Bush seemed to oppose it as well, promising that he would base any decision on "sound science." Reid believed Bush, but, he said, "my belief was short-lived." Barely a year into his first term, Bush approved the project, and Reid accused him of lying: "I thought he had misled the people of Nevada on nuclear waste." Of calling Bush a liar, Reid said, "If somebody doesn’t tell the truth, how else would you describe it? I guess I could have said he didn’t tell the truth."

Remember -- we're fighting the terrorists in Iraq, so we won't have to fight them in ...Nevada?...where all roads to Yucca Mountain will be lined with flypaper and signed with catastrophic odds?

Feeling safer? Or would you prefer I just "make up more stuff"? And care to bet your half-life on BushCo's "sound science"?


Anonymous said...

I think Frank Zappa has already commented on all this, turning it into his rock oratorio "Billy the Mountain."

cruelanimal said...

Hmmm. Maybe you're right. From "Billy the Mountain":

I gave him the money
He acted real funny
He hacked up a rock and
It totaled my car
Oh do you
Know any trucks
Might be bound for the valley...

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