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From NIRS info sheet:

2. Yucca's unsuitable geology (earthquakes, volcanoes, water leakage):

Yucca is a major earthquake zone. Dozens of fault lines crisscross the area, with two directly intersecting the proposed dumpsite. Many hundreds of quakes have struck near Yucca in recent decades, damaging DOE facilities, derailing trains that could one day be used to haul nuclear waste, and threatening to collapse access and burial tunnels.

All that seismic activity has fractured and fissured Yucca's rock, creating fast flow pathways for water infiltration. Water will eventually corrode waste burial containers, releasing deadly radioactivity into the underground drinking water supply used by a thriving farming community downstream.

Volcanism threatens the flooding of the proposed waste dump with superheated water and even lava, which would release massive amounts of deadly radioactivity into the surrounding environment.

Yucca's geology is so bad that building a dump there would require complete abandonment of the original concept of deep geologic disposal. Engineered barriers would have to provide all the radiation containment, begging the question: why build the dump there at all?

3. Yucca's unsuitable geography:

Yucca is near Las Vegas and not far from Los Angeles. It's immediately next door to Nellis Air Force Base, the Nevada nuclear weapons test site, and mining operations, threatening accidental or intentional crashes or detonations involving DOE's proposed surface facilities for handling and storing wastes. Yucca is on Western Shoshone Indian land, raising environmental justice objections to waste dumping there.

4. Changing the rules in the middle of the game: weakening environmental protection standards when Yucca fails to meet the original ones:

When Yucca has been unable, due to its poor geology, to live up to previously established federal safety regulations, they have simply been re-written or done away with altogether. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for repositories limiting releases of radioactive gases that Yucca could not meet were simply done away with for Yucca; re-written, Yucca-specific regulations allow for 18 kilometers of radiation contamination of groundwater, an unprecedented undermining of the Safe Drinking Water Act that threatens the farming community downstream that depends on Yucca's aquifer. And less than a month before its official decision finding Yucca "suitable" for nuclear waste dumping, the Department of Energy simply eliminated a 17 year old site suitability regulation that stated if water could travel through a proposed repository and back out into the environment in less than a thousand years time, that site must be disqualified from any further consideration. DOE's own studies have shown that Yucca cannot live up to that regulation, and over 200 public interest organizations petitioned DOE in 1998 to enforce its own regulations and disqualify Yucca. But DOE simply erased the regulation in 2001.

5. Politics trump science: corruption of the decision-making process:

Despite major conflicts of interest at the Yucca Mountain, nearly 300 technical studies being incomplete, and DOE's "weak to moderate" scientific basis, the project won congressional and presidential approval despite Nevada's objection. The nuclear power industry spent many tens of millions of dollars in the form of direct Capitol Hill lobbying, nationwide ad campaigns, and campaign contributions to federal office seekers to influence the Yucca votes. More recently, revelations that whistleblowers at the Yucca Mountain Project and in the waste shipping cask manufacturing industry have suffered severe harassment increase concerns about short cuts on safety.

And from the NIRS petition for the disqualification of Yucca:

Guideline: 960.4-2-1 Post-Closure Disqualifying Condition for Hydrology:

A site shall be disqualified if the pre-waste-emplacement ground-water travel time from the disturbed zone to the accessible environment is expected to be less than 1000 years along any pathway of likely and significant radionuclide travel.

Recent analyses of samples collected at the underground Exploratory Studies Facility (ESF) at the Yucca Mountain site indicate that water infiltrating from the ground surface above the study facility has traveled rapidly downward in fractures in the Mountain to, and through, the proposed repository horizon, toward the water table. Samples collected from the fracture walls in the ESF contain elevated amounts of chlorine-36 that are sufficiently high to indicate that the source must have been atmospheric weapons testing in the Pacific. Chlorine-36 was produced by the activation of the salt in seawater. It was deposited in fall-out and rain across the Northern Hemisphere. Since chlorine-36 does not occur at such large ratios in nature, it provides a marker for the travel time of surface water.

Therefore, transport of this bomb-pulse isotope to its current depths by infiltrating precipitation must have taken place within the last 50 years. This significant discovery contradicts earlier conceptual models depicting unsaturated zone flow at Yucca Mountain as being dominated by very slow downward movement through pores in the rock.

DOE's recent unsaturated zone flow models, based on chlorine-36 and other data, indicate that within acknowledged bounds of uncertainty, water infiltrating through the waste emplacement horizon will quickly reach the water table. And according to saturated zone flow models, travel to a point at which it is accessible to humans through water wells is less than 1000 years. This meets the conditions of 960.4-2-1 for disqualification; therefore Yucca Mountain must be disqualified.

With Clorine-36 showing that radionuclide travel to be faster than anticipated, it is clear that the expected performance of the repository will result in significant radionuclide contamination of the groundwater and, ultimately, the surface waters down-gradient from the site.

If nothing else, this information we are exchanging highlights the literal gulf between what commercial nuclear interest & supporting governments claim, and what independent and anti-nuclear groups claim. It shows how difficult it is to get an honest debate.

As an environmental scientist by trade, the precautionary principle is my version of the hermetic oath, and the more I read, the more nuclear power as it stands is not worth risking that principle.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 12:17:57 AM EST
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