|Health & Fitness
by Ev Chase
Yucca Mountain Is A Health Issue
Yucca Mountain is definitely a heath issue; a health issue yet unsolved, and an issue which may never be resolved by politics, population, or wealth, as many things are.
Maybe the problem of nuclear waste will be solved by science, but none of us will be around to prove or disprove whether the scientists were right or wrong. I expect the issue of building and using the repository will finally be decided by government mandate - hopefully not by our extinction due to the radioactive waste and its mishandling.
Most likely our country's nuclear waste will be stored for the next ten thousand years in our back yard. Another important factor is related to the transportation of nuclear waste. Can it be stored safely and how will it get to its storage location?
Although most of the waste is now being stored on site at nuclear power plants around the country and other temporary government and commercial storage facilities in 39 states, Yucca Mountain, adjacent to the Nevada Test Site north of Las Vegas in Nye County, is being developed for long-term storage. Long-term is about 150 generations from now or hundreds of thousands of years depending on the material.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a policy for the disposal of nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste which had been accumulating since the 1950s. The Department of Energy was assigned the responsibility for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Enter Nevada Test Site.
In 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to study only Yucca Mountain, because there was "no evidence that disqualifies it."
Does "no evidence" mean the same as "there is evidence to qualify the area for storage" or are they still searching for evidence not to store nuclear waste? It is my understanding testing continues in order to accomplish the storage task.
You may recall the amended act was known as the "Screw Nevada Act," and for more than 15 years the Yucca Mountain project has been a political football with promises being made on the basis of the number of votes in Congress.
Because of this "Screw Nevada Act," the State hired their own experts to make sure we have a watch dog of our own. Don Shettel, Ph.D. of Geosciences Management Institute, Inc. in Boulder City is one of the men filling the bill.
There is always more than one opinion and one approach, but many of us look upon the Federal Government as a steamroller inevitably getting where it wants to go. I asked Shettle if we're fighting a losing battle.
"I'm not sure about that anymore," Shettel says. "Recently, in the last year, Nevada has won several court decisions which effected a delay - at least a year or so. It also affected their funding."
The Yucca Mountain Project, according to Shettel, because of reduced funding may layoff personal, maybe as many as one thousand people.
Layoffs, if they last too long, become a long term squeeze on the pocketbook causing workers, most of them skilled, to move on to other jobs and other locations if necessary. A problem bigger than one might think according to Shettel.
"Even if their funding comes back," Shettel says, "they may not be able to get the people back to work and may have to start with new people. There's a lot of training and a steep learning curve."
The "steep learning curve" is a problem bringing us back to our original premise - health and safety. Not only are there concerns with workers at the Yucca Mountain Project, but also the ever increasing population down wind and down river.
Old timers, like this writer, remember the denials during testing at the Nevada Test Site, but down winders suffered severely from fallout.
The Yucca Mountain Project, with the exception of an explosive accident, will not cause the same type of radiation problem. But in this case, pollution of underground rivers are the target of scientific denial. It might be interesting to note, of the many countries working on this problem, according to Don, Yucca Mountain is the only facility located above a water table.
Granted, during the public relations tour sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, a bus load of us Boulder City folk did not hear any concerns relating to seepage into a water table. But I'm somewhat of a skeptic.
The explanations sounded practical enough, but I have a hard time believing we humans are smart enough to know what Mother Nature will do over any period of time. Florida huricane survivors may agree with me.
We were told the waste would be a thousand feet under the mountain and the river was a thousand feet below the waste. That wasn't a problem for me, because I know, water runs down hill and waste won't. Right?