Ground-breaking Report Faults Quake Planning at Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mtn with artist's rendition of warning monument for future generations.jpgTo consider nuclear power as a solution to climate change one must confront the legacy of high-level radioactive waste that is building up at power plants across the U.S. and Canada. This week the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed yet again how difficult it will be for regulators to bury the high-level waste problem while ensuring that waste remains safe for millenia to come.

The Review-Journal’s story on developments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s planned waste repositor at Yucca Mountain, Nevada — “Yucca fault line might spring surprise” — reveals that the site’s initial design would place a waste handling area atop a fault line capable of producing a magnitude 6+ earthquake. No wonder that the state of Nevada is fighting to block the repository’s construction, and that even the DOE concedes the repository won’t open for another decade.

Such risks and delays are one reason why the Bush Administration is pursuing nuclear waste reprocessing, in which the components of high-level nuclear waste are separated and reused. As I revealed in my Spectrum story on France’s nuclear waste reprocessing experience — “Nuclear Wasteland” — there are serious problems with this approach as well.

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2 thoughts on “Ground-breaking Report Faults Quake Planning at Yucca Mountain

  1. To consider nuclear power as a solution to climate change one must confront the legacy of high-level radioactive waste that is building up at power plants across the U.S. and Canada.

    Remember that the major factor driving the design of the Yucca Mountain repository is the requirement for 10,000 year geological isolation of the waste. This in turn is driven by the transuranic load of the waste. Liquid-fluoride thorium reactors could be developed that produce essentially no transuranic waste, and whose fission product waste would decay to the levels of natural uranium in 300 years. Thorium reactors could solve the long-term waste problem of today’s conventional uranium reactors.

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