Yucca Mountain: Dead or on life support?

Sen. Harry Reid met with a group of Review-Journal editorial staffers Wednesday and spouted his usual dismissal of the chances of Yucca Mountain ever opening as a nuclear waste repository.

Inside Yucca Mountain

“Yucca Mountain is gone. It’s not going to happen,” Reid said in the meeting. “Take drive up there. Look at it. All that billions of dollars in equipment. Where do you think that has gone? To the junk yard. That big multibillion-dollar auger they had it’s been junked, ground up for metal and shipped to China or wherever they send the metal. It’s closed. There’s not a chance in the world that anything is going to happen there.”

It was so routine for Reid that it did not warrant a mention in Thursday’s print edition story about the meeting. There was a brief video posted online and John L. Smith mentioned the issue in his column today, but that apparently did not warrant being posted online this morning. (The paper got around to posting the column at 8:47 a.m.)

Reid discusses Yucca Mountain (Screen grab from R-J video)

Reid discusses Yucca Mountain (Screen grab from R-J video)

Also on Thursday, according to today’s R-J, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a draft study that says Yucca Mountain would cause “only a negligible increase” in health risk from radioactive particles that might leak into groundwater.

The story quotes Rep. Joe Heck, who is running as a Republican for Reid’s Senate seat, as saying there is little Nevada can do to stop Yucca Mountain if authorities deem it safe for nuclear waste storage.

“If the federal government says it’s coming, its coming,” the R-J reports Heck said in a campaign interview Wednesday with the Nevada Appeal in Carson City.

A couple of Nevada delegates to D.C. have recently suggested that they are open to discussion of benefits for Nevada in exchange for opening Yucca Mountain.

The NRC draft study concludes:

The NRC staff finds that all of the impacts on the resources evaluated in this supplement would be SMALL. The NRC staff’s analysis includes the impact of potential radiological and nonradiological releases from the repository on the aquifer and at surface discharge locations of groundwater beyond the regulatory compliance location. The peak estimated annual individual radiological dose over the one-million-year period at any of the evaluated locations is 1.3 mrem [0.013 mSv]. This maximum dose is associated with pumping and irrigation at the Amargosa Farms area, and the estimated radiological dose at any other potential surface discharge location is lower. The NRC staff concludes that the estimated radiological doses are SMALL because they are a small fraction of the background radiation dose of 300 mrem/yr 22 [3.0 mSv/yr] (including radon), and much less than the NRC annual dose standards for a Yucca Mountain repository in 10 CFR Part 63 {15 mrem [0.15 mSv] for the first 10,000 years, and 100 mrem [1 mSv] for one million years, after permanent closure}. Based on conservative assumptions about the potential for health effects from exposure to low doses of radiation, the NRC staff expects that the estimated radiation dose would contribute only a negligible increase in the risk of cancer or severe hereditary effects in the potentially exposed population. Impacts to other resources at all of the affected environments beyond the regulatory compliance location from radiological and nonradiological material from the repository would also be SMALL. The cumulative impact analysis concludes that, when considered in addition to the incremental impacts of the proposed action, the potential impacts of other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions would be SMALL.

To store 77,000 metric tons of nuke waste would require 40 miles of tunnels.  Yucca Mountain already has seven miles of tunnel, along with numerous niches, alcoves and more than 180 boreholes in which various experiments and studies have been performed.

To add further finality to the safety of Yucca Mountain, the NRC even delves into the Obama administrations obsession with “environmental racism,” as outlined in an Investor’s Business Daily editorial today, which says federal agencies are blocking businesses and governments from locating potentially polluting operations inside or near populations of low-income or minority people.

The NRC draft uses the term “environmental justice” 32 times and has an entire section on this topic.

Five pages are devoted to this issue in the draft, but it includes:

DOE has identified no high and adverse potential impacts to members of the general public associated with exposure to contaminants that may occur in groundwater following closure of a repository at Yucca Mountain. Further, DOE has not identified subsections of the population, including minority or low-income populations that would receive disproportionate impacts. Likewise, DOE has identified no unique exposure pathways that would expose minority or low-income populations to disproportionately high and adverse impacts. The Department acknowledges the sensitivities and cultural practices of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe concerning the use and purity of springs in the [Furnace] Creek area; however, the information included in this Analysis of Postclosure Groundwater Impacts demonstrates that the potential concentrations of contaminants in those springs would be so low that there would be virtually no potential health effects associated with the use of those springs. Thus, this document supports the Department’s previous conclusion that no disproportionately high and adverse impacts would result from a repository.

How many of those temporary waste storage pools and dry casks are located nearer to large minority populations?


4 comments on “Yucca Mountain: Dead or on life support?

  1. USAF Ret. Colonel Robert Frank says:

    Some frequently ignored facts concerning nuclear waste are:

    1. The most dangerous waste could be moved by military air to the site as nuclear weapons materials are routinely done. This would avoid the concerns about surface transport risks to accidents and terrorism.

    2. Long-term storage concerns could be avoided if the waste was re-processed and used in current nuclear power plants and to fuel future types of “IV Generation” reactors so the waste is consumed during the next 100 years instead of stored forever. And, water is not needed to cool the reactors. Liquid metals and salts are recycled in the reactors so the old problem of massive water for cooling is no longer an issue.

    3. Yucca mountain facilities and the local area could be configured to support the manufacturing of IV Generation nuclear reactors that can operate un-refueled for decades, and manufactured on an assembly line basis. Such new types of heat sources can be buried underground to protect against terror attacks replace the fossil fuel heat sources for existing and future power generators.

    4. Such modular reactors can be small enough that the components could be flown to replace so-called fossil fuel sources of heat for power generation around the globe. This could generate hundreds of good jobs in the Yucca Mt. area, and resolve the concerns for long-term waste storage as well as eliminate the need to mine, manufacture and burn fossil fuels that create air and other pollutants. Within two decades, the concerns for power generation could be completely converted into pollution-free, safe facilities.

    5. Finally, even newer types of thorium reactors that replace uranium as fuel could replace all older generation reactors and allow the cost of producing electricity to be cut by up to 50% of current rates. That strikes me as a better energy plan than NV or the US current has on the books.

  2. A submarine-size nuke plant in every backyard?

  3. BoinLV says:

    Great points, Colonel!
    When will the libbies/greenies start looking at things like this?:

  4. Patrick says:

    We finally found a government agency that even a conservative can love. Leastways so long as they agree what it says.

    Well let me offer a repost here; the NRC was set up to promote nuclear power, and (falsely) and consistently assure the American public (RIP John Wayne) that it was safe. In fact, the only reason the NRC even exists today, was because the AEC lied so often to the American public, about the dangers of nuclear energy, that the powers that be figured shifting half of the people at the AEC, over to a “new” agency would fool the American public.

    All the while, the NRCs mission was unchanged. Promoting (lying about) nuclear energy.

    And…where are the 10th Amendmenters when you need ’em?

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