Yucca Mountain


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Yucca Mountain,

mountain in the SW Nevada desert about 100 mi (161 km) northwest of Las Vegas. It is the proposed site of a Dept. of Energy (DOE) repository for up to 77,000 metric tons of nuclear waste (including commercial and defense spent fuel and high-level radioactive material) presently held nationwide at commercial reactors and DOE sites. The project arose from the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act requiring the DOE to construct a permanent underground nuclear-waste storage facility. Proponents of the use of Yucca Mt. as a repository claim that the area some 1,000 ft (300 m) beneath the mountain is the most viable site available, arid and remote with a deep water table, and that gathering the radioactive material in one location would allow for safer and more efficient and cost-effective protection. Opponents, including the state of Nevada, cite the potential for seepage into area groundwater, the danger of transporting waste to the facility, and the likelihood of the degradation of the storage containers and the occurrence of earthquakes and climate change over thousands of years. In 2002 President George W. Bush officially designated Yucca Mt. as the site for the nuclear waste repository; a move, under the Obama administration, to withdraw the application for the waste site at Yucca Mt. was denied (2010) by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel for being contrary to the 1982 law. Regulatory hurdles and certain legal challenges must be surmounted before the facility can be constructed and opened.
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Yucca Mountain would not guarantee safe storage, and it would be risky to transport waste long distance by truck or train to get it there.
Yucca Mountain is no answer to this short-term threat: even if all went well, it would take much more than a decade to build and load.
A 2003 University of Nevada, Las Vegas study estimated that a repository at Yucca Mountain would add $228 million to Nevada's economy each year during construction and $127 million annually during operation.
Meanwhile, utilities (and indirectly their ratepayers) continue to pump money--$27 billion since 1982--into a fund that has remained untouched since plans for Yucca Mountain were shelved in 2010.
Seven hydrology and geochemistry studies form a companion volume to the 2007 Geology and Climatology of Yucca Mountain and Vicinity.
The Yucca Mountain site has several geographical, structural, and geophysical characteristics that may be relevant in considering potential alternative uses.
Even if the Yucca Mountain repository were built, there is already nearly enough spent nuclear fuel to fill it to maximum holding capacity.
It is increasingly clear that termination of the Yucca Mountain license application without clear legal authority and without an alternative plan has proven to be premature and unwise as well as deleterious generally to the nation's energy independence, economic competitiveness and environmental progress.
But the political football that has been, and to some extent remains, Yucca Mountain, is not the linchpin concerning growth in the nuclear energy sector.
My qualifications for writing this letter are that I wrote extensively on environmental economics in the 1960s and 1970s and that I was a member of the first Department of Energy committee to investigate Yucca Mountain during the 1970s.
Throughout the course of the essay, the reader is given a thorough history of the use and misuse of science surrounding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, a concise overview of the politics surrounding its specifications, and a chilling sense of the danger inherent in the project.
All funding for development of the Yucca Mountain facility would be eliminated, such as further land acquisition, transportation access, and additional engineering," according to the budget.