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"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."

The chlorine-36 (from atmospheric bomb tests in the Pacific) filtered through the strata.  The traces of water that carried it did not have to penetrate a corrosion-proof chromium alloy drip shield and the triple shielding of a cask, collect radionuclides, and then make a hole and drip out the bottom of the cask and thus out of the repository, which would occupy a small volume of space inside of the mountain.

The engineers at Yucca Mountain made very conservative estimates for their models.  This has resulted in huge uncertainties: scenarios that are at the extreme end of the probability curve.  These assumptions about worst worst-case scenarios have unfortunately fueled hysteria among people not versed in risk analysis.  This problem of public perception is to me the main reason that Yucca Mountain should not be used as a repository.  There are better places.

I happen to think that the geology of Yucca Mountain is far from the best location for a repository simply because it lends itself to this kind of confusion when the public tries to understand what is going on.  A much better medium is the granite pluton the Finns are using.  It is simple and stable.  But within that medium the waste will be in multi-shelled casks. Or the very stable and dry salt bed under the desert in SW NM.  There a repository for nuclear waste generated by the military has been successfully operating and met all EPA requirements.  Or we just do what Greenpeace wants and leave the spent nuclear fuel in sturdy concrete casks at the plants.  Then it will be available to be recycled.

In the 1980s there was an international effort run by the Nuclear Energy Agency of OECD to explore the disposition of nuclear waste in the deep clay sediments of vast, mid-tectonic plate, virtually lifeless deserts six miles under the ocean.  Many scientists consider this the optimum solution to waste that cannot be recycled in reactors.  But Greenpeace put a stop to that.

The philosophy of Greenpeace is to leave the waste where it was generated in order to punish the nuclear plants that made it.  So evidently those folks believe it is being safely stored there.  They are right.  Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, now refers to it and its fellow organizations as fearmongering, anti-scientific, and anti-technological.

As for indigenous peoples: They occupied the area now known as New York City.  I assume they occupied the area now known as Sydney.  It's unfortunate that genocide and diseases brought by Europeans in both Australia and in the Americas reduced a thriving population and its many civilizations to a marginalized state.

People get upset in the Southwest about uranium mining on Native American lands.  None occurs there now.  But those people in Santa Fe who feel so sensitive about the displacement of indigenous people do not think of turning their expensive homes and ranches over to nearby pueblos who used to own that land before Europeans arrived.  And I wonder if people in Sydney and Perth or on huge sheep ranches ever think that they should give up the land that their ancestors in the 19th century appropriated and return it to its rightful owners.  Or if anyone in the suburbs is proposing their return to the people who have lived on that land for a hundred thousand years or more.

The Nevada Test Site and the surrounding air bases, etc., along with a large wildlife preserve, has been the property of the federal govt. for a long time.

The real world is not always what we would like it to be.  Nobody's hands are clean.  There is no energy source without risk.  Some sources are far riskier than others.  

Fossil fuels put us at far more risk personally and globally than any other source of energy generation and their effects are going to be causing problems for centuries on a worldwide scale.

by Plan9 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:17:55 AM EST
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