Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Yucca hype doesn’t match facts

In his letter, “Give nuclear storage a fair look,” Tom Keller claims that he has yet to see any valid scientific and economic conclusions that warrant killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project. Somewhere he picked up the notion that spent fuel and associated fission products won’t be mobilized by groundwater. Well, the power of propaganda is impressive and had much to do with the scientific merits of the proposed repository.

It began with the Energy Department’s notion in 1982 that the site was “dry” with a deep water table and therefore ideal for disposal of 77,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste.

The trouble encountered, however, was that host rock pores were about 95 percent saturated, and also full of fractures and faults (unsaturated). As characterization studies progressed, the DOE encountered a fatal problem. The site also wouldn’t meet site selection and licensing criteria that both the DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had agreed to. The groundwater travel time criterion, the most fundamental test, couldn’t be met. The DOE’s Plan B was to just keep going until it could convince the NRC to change the licensing criteria (about 20 years after initially agreed to and adopted). The new licensing criteria allowed the engineered barriers to be a primary containment factor. This was highly convenient; nobody can forecast how well engineered barriers will work at geologic time scales. Then, if one hides the engineered barrier performance in a hugely complex modeling analysis, few if any can fully understand what was actually plugged into the black box.

So it is not too surprising Tom Keller hasn’t seen much scientific evidence but probably has seen plenty of hype as to the economic benefits.

The author was a consultant on the Yucca Mountain project for the NRC, the state of Nevada and several counties.

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  1. The fact that matters is nuclear energy is here to stay. And disposal of it's waste is too. Americans, including Nevadans, have to wrestle with and accept both.

    Carmine D

  2. What tripe, you are trying to terrorize people with bull about confined waste when there are the remains of 200+ underground tests sitting out there uncontained. These underground tests were done well under the level of ground water,

  3. Yucca is dead. And it will stay dead.

    I say move all nuclear waste to Senator McConnell's front lawn in Kentucky. He's trying to use Yucca as a wedge issue to threaten Senator Reid about filibuster rules. Nice try, McConnell. Not going to work.

    Kentucky doesn't tell Nevada what to do. Our land is our land. Not yours. We are not pawns in your stupid political game.

    Yucca is not an option anymore. The days of Screw Nevada are over with. We are no longer politically weak. We fight them bastards.

    It will NEVER be an option. We simply cannot make a decision that would provide little or no short term games for Nevada, but saddle future generations after generations after generations with an insurmountable burden. Not to mention one they never wanted and causes them to scratch their heads and wonder why they did this.

    The answer is simple. No means no. Take that crap somewhere else.

    Nevada fights this.

    And any of our politicians who don't? We will destroy them politically with our votes. Because if they can't stand up for Nevada on this issue, they don't deserve to be in power. Period.

    Every single argument I see has no basis in fact. Only political ambitions. And they are mostly from Washington and South Carolina. Because both those States are turning into nuclear waste toilets. Specifically, in Washington, their Hanover Plant storage leaks and is threatening to completely destroy the Columbia River. Of course, they want to dump all their crap on Nevada and be rid of it forever. I would be willing to say it is so unstable, they can't even TRANSPORT it without it leaking.

    Yucca is not the option. And it will never be the option. Turn that place into a flower pot. Or a hotdog stand.

  4. If any other state was chosen to store nuclear waste, in a heart beat you'd be hearing politicians and people screaming people NIMBY!

    (Not In My Backyard)

  5. Recent Forbes article, June 30, 2013.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2...

    Carmine D

  6. From the above Forbes article:

    "Steven Tetreault, also in Las Vegas, said, "the new nuclear waste bill doesn't repeal Yucca Mountain".

    Kind of.

    While technically true, these miss the point that in a consensus approach, nothing is ever dead, just off the table, like Yucca Mountain. But Yucca Mountain is still important to this process."

    Read the article...well worth the time and read.

    Carmine D