Have we lost our senses? The Bush administration is trying to steamroll establishment of Yucca Mountain as the country’s nuclear waste dump, while planning to build more “mini-nukes” and threatening to use our nuclear weapons against a handful of nations and in situations where they were previously off-limits. In this case, not only is Bush threatening to destroy life in the countries named in the Nuclear Posture Review, but he’s willing to sacrifice his own nation in order to kept the nuclear industry afloat.
Yucca Mountain was not chosen to be the nation’s nuclear repository based on “sound science” as those in the Bush administration would have us believe, but it had been singled out almost 20 years ago based on political vulnerability – the small congressional delegation of Nevada is no match for the nuclear industry lobby and their friends in Congress. The state of Nevada does not even have a nuclear reactor, so why should it be the dump for the rest of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel? In fact, sound science shows us that Yucca Mountain is the one place studied so thoroughly that the Department of Energy (DOE) knows that it will leak. The Nuclear Waste technical Review Board described the DOE’s science at the site as “moderate to weak,” and the General Accounting Office (the independent investigative arm of Congress) found that 293 scientific issues still need to be resolved before the site should even be considered as a waste dump.
Yucca Mountain is very seismically active, with over 600 earthquakes occurring in the last 25 years, including one that did over a million dollars’ worth of damage to the DOE’s own testing facilities. An even more interesting geological feature of the site is that a line of lava cones extends westward from Yucca Mountain, the youngest of which lies closest to the mountain, suggesting a magma pocket underneath. Global positioning satellites which track the movement of the earth’s crust note that the crust at Yucca is expanding and moving steadily westward. The earliest analyses of the site show that water flows very quickly through the mountain. Recent analysis of abundant crystals in the mountain found they were formed by hot water welling up into the mountain from below. This presents the possibility of a catastrophic explosion caused by steam, chemical interaction or a chain reaction, much like what would happen in a core meltdown of a nuclear reactor.
Then there are the problems of transportation. The waste must be stored in dry casks and then placed on trains, trucks, and barges to begin their slow, dangerous journey from the nation’s 103 nuclear reactors to Yucca Mountain, at least 6 shipments a day for 30 years or more. The planned routes pass within miles of over 50,000,000 people, passing through large cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., and countless smaller cities including Santa Barbara. The potential for a catastrophic accident is enormous, as these slow-moving shipments are basically sitting ducks for any would-be terrorist, not to mention the risk involving road accidents. However, the nuclear industry needs it that way, because as soon as the spent fuel moves off the reactor site, all responsibility shifts to the taxpayer, thanks to the Price-Anderson Act, which limits the industry’s liability in case of an accident even when it occurs on reactor property.
The shocking proposal to establish Yucca Mountain has been vetoed by Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn, throwing the ball back to Congress to override the veto and create the nation’s first nuclear repository. A bill has already been introduced to establish the repository, and will be voted on within 90 days. These next few months are crucial, so please write a letter to your senators and representative and urge them to vote against this extremely dangerous plan.
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0505
Tel.: (202) 224-3553
Fax: (415) 956-6701
Environment and Public Works
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0504
Tel.: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Representative Lois Capps
1118 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0522
Tel.: (202) 225-3601
Fax: (202) 225-5632
Energy and Commerce Committee
If your representative is not listed here, please visit www.congress.org for contact info.
This article was written with the help of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, http://www.nirs.org