portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

energy & nuclear | environment

Alternatives to Nuclear Waste Site at Yucca Mt.

Instead of dumping the entire nation's nuclear waste pile underneath seismically active Yucca Mountain, why not use the already constructed tunnels as a (non-GMO) seed bank and emergency food storage repository??
Now that the anti-science GW bush regime is finally out of power, Obama and Harry Reid can finally have the real science on Yucca Mountain previously ignored by Dept of Energy (DOE) under GW bush regime. Will the Democrat majority be able to close down the Dept. of Energy's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump repository in Nevada? What are other alternatives to the Yucca Mountain tunnel that do not involve storing radioactive substances??

There are several safety concerns that make the Yucca Mt. site less than desireable location for the storage of the entire U.S. supply of radioactive nuclear waste. With the nuclear waste having a half life beyond millions of years, the reality of an earthquake rupture of the site during that time needs to be addressed;

Contact:John B. Davies or Peter Caughey 303-492-6522 or 303-492-4007 jdavies [at] colorado.edu University of Colorado at Boulder

"Earthquake Could Cause Flooding Of Yucca Mountain Repository, Study Says

An earthquake in the vicinity of the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain could cause groundwater to surge up into the storage area, according to a new study by two University of Colorado at Boulder geophysicists.

The safety of the proposed Nevada site has been debated for more than 10 years, primarily due to concerns about earthquakes and groundwater. Now it appears that one of those concerns could lead to a problem with the other.

In a study to be published next month in Environmental Geology, physics research associates John B. Davies and Charles Archambeau present their conclusions on what might happen if a significant earthquake struck the Yucca Mountain area. It is the first study to assess the impact of an earthquake on the area's groundwater levels.

Using computer modeling based on geological data, historical quakes and results from about 20 test wells, they showed that a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake could raise the water table between 450-750 feet at the storage site. Because the repository would be only 600 to 800 feet above the present water table, "flooding could be expected to occur," they write.

The water table below the Yucca Mountain site is unusually deep, about 1,500 feet below the surface, Davies said. But within a 6-mile area north of the proposed storage facility the groundwater level rapidly rises to a more normal depth of about 600 feet.

The reason for this abrupt change in the water table is a cause for concern, Davies said.

Davies and Archambeau believe that the presence of open fractures underneath Yucca Mountain has allowed the water table to descend to unusually low depths, and that closed fractures to the north have resulted in a more normal water table level. The danger is that an earthquake of sufficient magnitude could cause the open fractures underneath the Yucca Mountain site to squeeze shut, forcing the water upward into the storage facility.

"If water hits the storage area it could cause a rapid corrosive breakdown of the containers and allow the plutonium to leak into the water table and the atmosphere," Davies said."

article continues @;
 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/06/970629235257.htm

Several mistakes and miscalculations were made and then ignored by the DOE, many of these with serious consequences;

"A letter and maps from the U.S. Geological Survey obtained last week by the Review-Journal show that the Bow Ridge fault passes directly beneath the footprint of a pad where spent fuel canisters would age or cool down before they are entombed in a maze of tunnels inside the mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Rock core samples extracted by drill rigs about 250 feet below the surface indicate that the fault is hundreds of feet east of where scientists had thought it was.

That means designers either must revamp their plans or show regulators that the so-called aging pad, and possibly nearby buildings where nuclear waste would be handled, can be fortified enough to withstand an offset of the rock layers beneath them, said Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

The agency for two decades has been reviewing scientific work and plans for the Yucca Mountain repository. Loux has been an outspoken critic of the Department of Energy project.

"It certainly looks like DOE has encountered a surprise out there, and it certainly speaks to the fact they haven't done the technical work they should have done years ago," Loux said Friday in a telephone interview from Carson City.

"It's going to have to cause some change of the design in the final analysis," Loux said. "It's going to impact the safety case."

The DOE's "11th hour" bore hole drilling operations, as Loux calls them, have been the focus of recent legal wrangling in federal court in Las Vegas. Attorneys for Loux and State Engineer Tracy Taylor asked U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt to make the DOE stop using Nevada's water for cooling and lubricating drill rigs and creating mud to collect rock samples. Hunt denied their request last week."

article cont's @;

 http://www.lvrj.com/news/9954856.html

We simply cannot take the chances with storing highly radioactive nuclear waste in the Yucca Mt. tunnels. However, since the tunnels were already built, why not make some use out of them with far less dangerous outcomes in the event of an earthquake??

Storing plant seeds and food items in a safe and dry place would be a great alternative to storing nuclear waste. This would also keep the plant seeds safe for future use in case of some other disaster (plant disease outbreak, climate disruption, nuclear winter event, etc...). Even if there is an earthquake while the seeds and food are being stored there, the worst outcome would be some wet seeds and moldy food, though no leaking radiation!!

There's plenty of activist groups lined up to protest the Yucca Mt. nuclear waste repository, so why not save everyone the trouble and use the Yucca tunnels for an alternative, storing seeds and food instead..

No Nuclear Waste on Yucca Mt. activism @;
 http://www.shundahai.org/yucca_mt.html

Having more than one place to store seeds in a "doomsday seed bank" might also be a good idea..

"The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, or the Doomsday Vault as the media have nicknamed it, will be the ultimate safety net for the world's most important natural resource.

The world's seed collections are vulnerable to a wide range of threats - civil strife, war, natural catastrophes, and more routinely but no less damagingly, poor management, lack of adequate funding, and equipment failures. Unique varieties of our most important crops are lost whenever any such disaster strikes, and therefore securing duplicates of all collections in a global facility provides an insurance policy for the world's food supply.

The seed vault is an answer to a call from the international community to provide the best possible assurance of safety for the world's crop diversity, and in fact the idea for such a facility dates back to the 1980s. However, it was only with the coming into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, and an agreed international legal framework for conserving and accessing crop diversity, that the seed vault became a practical possibility.

The vault is being dug into a mountainside near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Construction is due to be completed in September 2007. Svalbard is a group of islands nearly a thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway. Remote by any standards, Svalbard's airport is in fact the northernmost point in the world to be serviced by scheduled flights - usually one a day. For nearly four months a year the islands are enveloped in total darkness. It is here that the Norwegian government has built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, to provide this ultimate safety net for the world's seeds."

full article @;

 http://www.croptrust.org/main/arctic.php?itemid=211

Of course the next step would be to make sure that corporations like Monsanto, ADM ,etc... don't take over the Yucca Mt. seed bank with their genetically modified seeds!!