Nuclear Age Peace
Top Ten Reasons to Oppose
the DoE's Yucca Mountain Plan
by David Krieger and Marissa Zubia*, August
Nuclear energy has always been promoted to the
public in fraudulent ways. At the outset, it was claimed that
it would be “too cheap to meter,” a claim that was
far from true even without taking into account large government
subsidies provided to the nuclear industry. Later, and still today,
nuclear energy is promoted as being “clean, safe and environmentally
friendly.” This claim should have been definitively laid
to rest with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.
Now the proponents of nuclear energy are pushing
for long-term storage of highly radioactive nuclear wastes at
Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The $7 billion that the Department of
Energy (DoE) has spent on researching the suitability of Yucca
Mountain, Nevada as a radioactive waste storage site has only
served to prove that the volatile Yucca Mountain itself is a terrible
place to dump the 77,000 tons of nuclear waste that has been building
up at nuclear power plants. It is a shortsighted and dangerous
scheme that would endanger tens of millions of Americans now and
for generations to come.
There are many sound reasons to oppose the Department
of Energy’s plan to transport nuclear wastes from throughout
the country to Yucca Mountain. Here are our top ten.
1. Accomplishes No Reasonable Objective.
Yucca Mountain does not eliminate on-site storage of nuclear waste.
After Yucca Mountain is full, there will still be 44,000 tons
of high-level nuclear waste stored on-site at reactors throughout
the country. There will also be 77,000 tons of such waste moving
around the US over the next 30 years, traveling from one of 131
sites an average of 2000 miles per shipment to Yucca Mountain.
If the purpose of the Yucca Mountain project is to consolidate
the wastes, that goal will clearly not be achieved.
2. Provides Minimal Protection.
Yucca Mountain itself only provides a small portion of the "protection"
that the proposed site promises. The casks that hold the waste
are the actual protection, so why Yucca Mountain at all?
3. Creates More Nuclear
Shipping the waste off-site will allow for the nuclear reactors
to continue creating more waste long after the contracts for those
sites were set to expire, thus continuing the cycle of producing
extremely dangerous waste that no one knows how to safely dispose
of. The nuclear industry has economic incentives for moving the
waste off-site from the reactors.
4. Adverse Effects on Future
The project is a distinct danger to defenseless citizens -- not
just in this generation, but thousands of generations to come
will be affected by this decision. Plutonium-239, for example,
has a half-life of 24,400 years, which means that the wastes will
remain lethal for some 240,000 years.
5. Earthquake Danger.
Yucca Mountain is directly above an active magma pocket
and is the third most seismically active area in the United States,
with over 600 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater on the Richter
scale in the last 25 years alone. One such earthquake did over
a million dollars worth of damage to the US Department of Energy's
own testing facility! The most recent earthquake on July 14, 2002
had a magnitude of 4.4.
6. Fifty Million People
Routes will move through 734 counties across the United
States. The high-level radioactive waste contained in the casks
will endanger 50 million innocent people who live within 3 miles
of the proposed shipment routes. Hospitals, schools, businesses,
emergency personnel, commuters, travelers, and passers-by will
also cross paths with the shipments that will move through the
country at an average rate exceeding six shipments per day. Community
health facilities are not adequately prepared or equipped to deal
with mass exposure to radioactive matter. To find out how close
your residence or place of work is to the proposed routes, enter
your address at www.mapscience.org.
7. Terrorist Attacks.
The proposed shipments to Yucca Mountain would move along
predictable routes through 44 states, and many major metropolitan
areas such as Atlanta (daily shipments), Chicago (every 15 hours),
Denver (every 13 hours), and Salt Lake City (every 7 hours). They
would provide tempting targets for terrorists.
8. Costly Accidents and
For each spill that may occur (one out of every 300 shipments
is expected to have an accident) the cost of the clean-up is estimated
conservatively at $6 billion dollars. Thanks to Congress passing
and repeatedly renewing the Price-Anderson Act, the nuclear industry's
liability is limited. Taxpayers will pay the bill for accidents
even if they occur on reactor property.
9. Adverse Impact on Water
Yucca Mountain sits above the only source of drinking
water for the residents of Amargosa Valley. The aquifer below
Yucca Mountain provides water to Nevada’s largest dairy
farm, which supplies milk to some 30 million people on the west
10. Violates Treaties.
Yucca Mountain is located on Native American land, belonging
to the Western Shoshone by the treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western
Shoshone National Council has declared this land a nuclear free
zone and demanded an end to nuclear testing and the dumping of
nuclear wastes on their land.
It defies reason to expect that radioactive wastes
will sit for tens of thousands of years undisturbed by unpredictable
nature, by vengeful terrorists, or by human or technological errors
in the design of the containment structure itself. The problem
of what to do with high-level radioactive wastes warrants additional
consideration and resources, including investigation of alternatives
to Yucca Mountain. As an interim solution, the wastes should be
converted to dry-cask storage and remain on-site where they were
1. Jaya Tiwari, “Time Running Out: Senate to Vote
on Future of Yucca Mountain Project Soon,” Physicians for
Social Responsibility Security Program Activist Update, (June
2002). 2. Western Shoshone National Council, “US Senate
Vote Violates Treaty and Tribe’s Basic Human Rights,”(July
3. State of Nevada-Nuclear Projects Agency, Nuclear Neighborhoods,
4. The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Office of the Governor,
“A Mountain of Trouble: A Nation At Risk,” Volume
1, (February 2002).
5. Michael E. Long, “Half Life, The Lethal Legacy of America’s
Nuclear Waste,” National Geographic, (July 2002).
6. Richard Wiles & James R. Cox, “What If…A Nuclear
Waste Accident Scenario in Los Angeles, CA,” Environmental
Working Groups, www.MapScience.org, (June 27, 2002).
*David Krieger is president
of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Marissa Zubia is the coordinator
of the Foundation’s Renewable Energy Project.