UCCA (yucka) Mountain, Nevada

Sixty Minutes is a very resourcefull show to find out what is going on about a variety of things. The program I just watched was how congress and the president want to send all of our radioactive waste to a mountain in Nevada. Of course, many of you people may not have to much of a problem because you don’t live in Nevada. Then again some of you people might have actually thought about how it might get there. They will use railroads. If the shipments are brought in from the east coast Chicago will be heavily effected. If it comes from the south Atlanta, St. Louis, and Kansas City will be effected. The city that will be effected the heaviest will be Las Vegas. We are taking a huge risk having it transported like this. Considering it doesn’ t take to much of this stuff accidentally being spilled and then we’ll have a catostrophic mess on our hands.

P.S. For all of you people who think I’m working for Kerry. He doesn’t support this plan.

If he doesn’t, then he’s guilty of sacrificing the long-term benefits to his constituents on the altar of short-sighted political gain. Nuclear power is considerably safer than any fossil fuel and the chances of a train disaster such as you describe is rather slim.

The visceral “ick” reaction is a pretty piss-poor method of forming an energy policy.

Radioactive waste is not shipped in tapperware, you know?, it doesn´t spill just like that. I once saw a video of a locomotive hitting a waste container (it was a test), it didn´t break.

I guess we’ll just have to leave it all in relatively unsecure “temporary” holding facilities, right next to our nuke power plants, scattered all over the country, and wait for a terrorist to fly a plane into one of them so we can have our own little Chernobyl-size cloud of contaminants.

On this one, I’m rather disgusted with Senator Kerry.

Do those that oppose the Yucca Mountian facility have a better idea? If there is a viable plan B, let’s hear it. If not, let’s get that waste to Yucca.

I am all for a Plan B, if you have one let’s hear it. Otherwise let’s get this stuff underground before it leaks in place.

(Psst. Actually, it’s Yucca Mountain. They nuclear trefoil on the graphic was supposed to be a “Y”.)

So you wouldn’t mind if it was sent to Montreal instead?

It’s been several years since I first heard about the proposal to store the waste in Yacca Mountain. Seems to me that I remember something about faults int he mountain that could allow leaking waste to get into the aquifer. This would not be a good thing.

As opposed to waiting for a terrorist with an RPG to blow a train off the tracks or a truck off the road, as they travel over a thousand miles through virtually unprotected countryside? I would suspect that the waste is currently stored in some-what hardened facilities, and aircraft don’t make very good penetrators.

You guys should know that i would research this before posting anything. I know that the containers holding the waste are hard to penetrate, but accidents can happen. Machines can malfunction and accidentally put the lid or whatever on wrong. Things can happen. I’m not that stupid, and another plan should be formulated so that we can have a backup because this plan won’t survive for the full 10,000 years that are needed.

You guys who are worried about train accidents really need to read up on the containers used to transport the stuff.

Before a container is approved for shipping, it must pass the following tests:

  • a drop from 30 feet onto concrete.

  • a drop from 1 meter onto a rod 15 centimeters in diameter

  • A constant fire of 800 degrees

  • an 8-hour immersion in 3 feet of water

Shipping containers can withstand impacts into brick walls at train speeds. They can take RPG rocket fire without breaking open. They can be in a burning train wreck indefinitely without spilling their contents.

And if there IS a nuclear spill, it’s not exactly a Chernobyl. We’re talking about solid waste, so it’s not about to kill thousands of people. We’re talking about an expensive HAZMAT cleanup. Not the end of the world.

Stupid response. Canadian reactors currently store their high-level waste on site, but are kicking around the idea of a permanent underground facility somewhere in the Canadian Shield. The Yucca Mountain proposal represents a huge yet vastly underpopulated territory that could be ideal (or the least worst choice) for a permament American repository.

I guess you wouldn’t mind putting your fingers in your ears and going “NANANANA” to ignore the more gradual damage done to the environment by fossil fuels, as long as we’re throwing around dumb observations.

I’ve always been fond of the Canadian shield. It’s a nice big chunk of rock that nothing much has happened to in the last two billion years. In terms of long term stability, it beats the hell out of an earthquake ridden bit of tuff sitting on the edge of a purportedly extinct, caldera-forming supervolcano.
I don’t suppose you Canadians would be interested in putting together a joint facility with your friends from south of the border? There might even be a little $$$ in it for you.

But, as several posters have already pointed out, moving the waste to a central location (pretty isolated, I might add) is a much better idea than keeping the waste stored in the current locations, near populated areas and such. As you said, accidents can happen- and better they happen away from residential areas.

As for leakage from the Yucca site into an aquifer… I would think that since the area is somewhat isolated, some kind of action could be taken to retard or stop any leakage from getting “too far” (I’m sure the area would be extremely well monitored). I remember talking about this with my wife several months ago (she much more educated about this than I… you know, as a geological engineer), but I don’t remember some of her rebuttals off-hand. She is all for the Yucca Mountain project, though.

I am disappointed that Kerry isn’t for it though… I was unaware of that.


I’ve heard nothing about ‘leaking into aquifers’…at least nothing real from a credible source. I’ve certainly heard a lot of ranting and hand wringing from the anti-nuclear crowd. If someone has a credible cite for that I’m willing to listen. The only thing I’ve heard is that no scientist will make the absurd statement that they 100% guarentee the site will remain intact for 10,000 years, and thats what has the clueless folks that don’t understand science’s panties in a bunch.

Again, lets hear a viable plan B. I’ve yet to hear anything more than “just leave it where it is…its worked so far”. However, I’ve ALSO seen some pretty disturbing things about how the waste is currently being ‘stored’…as well as how its being guarded, and the fact that guarding the stuff in multiple locations makes it an easier target. VERY disturbing.

The government has spent literally billions on the Yucca Mtn. project…and will probably end up spending billions more because of the knee jerk reaction of the clueless and the fanatic, who will continue to block this thing while giving no alternatives. And it will be all of us who pay in the end for the nuclear-phobes, because in the end reality will rear its ugly head and we’ll HAVE to do something with the waste. C’est la vie I guess…


Here and [url=]here are articles on a recent court ruling on the Yucca Mt. repository. The court rejected a lot of the arguments against the site; however, they did find that the current standard that the EPA is using is inadequate in being inconsistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences:

This isn’t to say that Yucca Mt. won’t ultimately be the best solution to this vexxing problem of what to do with the high-level radioactive waste, but it seems from this court decision (assuming they are reading the NAS conclusions correctly) that there are some legitimate scientific concerns about the current plan.

Ad hominem.

I’m willing to concede that this might be true. But Yucca Mountain has been the only site under consideration since 1987. I think other sites should be sought out and considered.

Area Unsuitable for a Permanent High-level Waste Dump

In addition to the 1992 earthquake, there was a magnitude 4.4 in June 2002.

No damage was reported at Yucca Mountain from the 1992 or 2002 quakes; but geologically active areas do represent a potential danger.

But the biggest danger is not the site itself; it’s getting the waste to it. As has been pointed out, there have been numerous tests that show the containers will stand up to accidents. Trucks do crash, and trains do derail. I think it was the Landers quake (in the desert, a couple hundred miles from Las Vegas) that derailed a train a few years ago. I don’t think that such a crash would breach the containers. But a terrorist who is actively trying to breach them may have more success. The 60 Minutes piece seemed to indicate that the containers might not stand up to an anti-tank round.

You have come to the conclusion that because I have concerns about this particular site and the movement of the waste to it, that I am anti-nuclear. I’m not.

Yes, nuclear power is a viable option to fossil fuels. I’d like to see more nuclear power plants. I’d also like to see other forms of energy developed. (The wind turbines near where I used to live work pretty well, and I’d like to see more solar plants like the experimental one near Barstow developed.) But for now, nuclear power is the most viable. The problem is what to do with the spent fuel.

Yucca Mountain are that it is in a geologically active area with numerous faults. Maybe it is the “least worst choice”; but the appearance is that it was chosen for political expediency. I’d like for other sites to have been studied since 1987. I’d like to know what will be done if radioactive materials get into the groundwater. I’d like to know how convoys will be protected from attack by terrorists armed with anti-tank weapons.

No it’s a poor choice of comparison when the population denisities are off by a factor of 10,000. Besides, the argument was called stupid not the person making the argument.

Population = 3,426,000
Land Area (sq miles) = 679
Pop/sq mile = 5046

Eureka County
Population = 1,500
Land Area (sq miles) = 4,176
Pop/sq mile = 0.4

Stretch it out to compare the State/Province
Population = 7,200,00
Land Area = 601,000
Pop/sq mile = 11

Population = 2,241,000
Land Area = 109,829
Pop/sq mile = 20

There must have been candidates other than Yucca mountain. Where were they and what argued against their selection?

here (Don’t mind the slant, that site just had the info in the most readable form)

I’m a little surprised that the old Iron mines near Soudan in northern Minnesota, or the roots of the Penokean mountains near, say Clam Lake, Wisconsin were not considered. Both regions are old, and geologically stable.
I suppose that once a bureaucracy dumps a few hundred million into one possible solution to a problem, they tend to stick with it, regardless of whether it’s the best solution.

Well, that’s an even stupider response. I make no statement about you personally, except I note that you have the demonstrated ability to say things that seem pat, but are actually stupid. Were you seriously assuming I thought Yucca Montain and Montreal were equally viable sites for a high-level waste dump?

If a terrorist wanted to cause an environmental catastrophe, there are better targets than the mega-reinforced high-level waste containers. Taking out a train carrying a cargo of simple deisel fuel near a city waterway would be about as bad.

If you’re going to postulate a terrorist with an anti-tank weapon (and even that might not be enough to breach one of these containers), there are so many better targets he could choose. Heck, putting a round in the Capitol dome would be a sufficiently bold statement. The spectre of a determined terrorist doesn’t strike me as a sufficiently compelling argument. It too easily leads to other preposterous slippery-slope notions like banning air travel, eliminating private ownership of large vehicles, or restricting gatherings to five people or fewer.

I hadn’t drawn any such conclusion, nor do I care what your stance on nuclear power is. Your casual dismissal of a single high-level dump on alarmist grounds, though, suggests to me that you don’t favour the proper use of nuclear power. Neither alternative:
[ul][li]Keep nuclear, but store waste on site, or[/li][li]Reduce or eliminate nuclear, which will lead to increased demand for polluting fossil fuels[/ul][/li]…is better.

Yucca Mountain may be prone to minor earthquakes, but there’s always going to be some risk. If the risk is lower than keeping high-level waste on site, good.

There’s no place on Earth that isn’t geologically active. The political expediency in this issue comes from trying to score points by speaking against the project, rather than for it. After all, if political expediency was served by the Yucca project, perhaps it wouldn’t still just be under consideration 15+ years later.

The groundwater concern is a valid one, I’ll admit. Naturally, reasonable precautions should be taken, then tripled. It may simply turn out that there is no site within the continental U.S. which is better.

Heck, I’d like to know how passenger jets will be protected from attack by terrorists armed with stinger missiles, but I don’t consider the possibility a valid reason to restrict passenger jets.

All in all, we have to go with Yucca Mountain. We really have no other choice.

Keeping the stuff in place is a nonstarter. Wishing will not make it go away. Frankly, the best solution would have been not to have produced in the first place. Now we are in a pickle.

As I said, if someone has a Plan B, I wold like to hear it.

I would propose we open YM and use it for a couple of three years to burry low-level waste. Once we can do that reliably, we can get read of the nasty stuff.

There is no plan B. There should be, but right now, we have no solution to the problem of long-term storage except Yucca Mountain.

Thing is, we’re uncertain about the safety of Yucca Mountain on 10^4-to-10^5 year time scales.

Fine. Lets use the 5000-or-so years of virtual impregnability we’ve got until then to find a better solution. But the waste we have already is a major problem right now. It needs to be consolidated and secured. And like it or not, we still need nuclear power, maybe now more than ever.

Anything we can do to reduce our dependence on Middle-East oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is worth a look. Solar and wind are decades away from picking up a significant portion of the slack. Fusion may never be a viable option (though I sincerely hope it will be). We don’t want to dam more rivers, we don’t want to burn more coal and natural gas, people gripe about giant windmills obscuring their views, photovoltaic cells are expensive, inefficient, and dirty to produce…what’s the solution? I can’t come up with a better short-term plan than nuclear power. We simply must find a place to put the waste that is, at the very least, safer than where it is now. A terrorist attack on one of our current facilities would be devastating, and unfortunately, these facilities are not nearly hard enough to withstand an airplane crash, or even a large bomb. They are prime targets, and always will be so long as they exist. Nothing short of an underground nuclear blast could penetrate Yucca Mountain. If our enemies have such a weapon, they’ll no longer need a dirty bomb.

Yucca Mountain, while not perfect, isn’t a bad bet for the next few tens of thousands of years. It may be secure for much longer. The fact is, no one really knows on timescales that large, and I’m not at all convinced better places can be found if the main criterion must be impregnability forever. It may be that no such location exists.