The debate on nuclear waste continues. I am responding to the letters of both Rory Reid and Lou deBottari published on Aug. 22 in this paper.
Scare tactic number 1: Reid declares that nuclear waste shipments will be speeding to Nevada. Speeding means unsafe and illegal driving. I haven't seen the DOT plan for the transportation of nuclear waste; however, because of security concerns they have no choice but to make shipments by convoys, at or below the speed limits, escorted by the military or state police.
You can bet on the fact that DOT will select drivers with good records, mountain driving experience, who are not drug addicts or alcoholics. If I were a truck driver, I would feel insulted to think Mr. Reid would consider me reckless if given the responsibility of transporting nuclear waste.
Bush has taken a stand on storage of nuclear waste. He has stated he would base his decision on the collective judgment of the scientists working on the Yucca project. You don't like it, Mr. Reid, because it is not a black or white answer. It takes a good leader to admit he doesn't know everything and depends upon experts for advice.
Scare tactic No. 2: Instill fear in our minds that the EPA will not protect the public and water supplies from deadly radiation. Yucca Mountain is in the Nevada Nuclear Test Area that has been in use for over 50 years. Hundreds of underground nuclear tests have been made there which, I am sure, have made a lot of the surrounding ground highly contaminated.
What a logical choice! Store encapsulated and shielded nuclear waste in a place that is worthless for public use. Whoever controls the storage site will not permit the public to enter the storage chambers to pet the canisters. How about the danger to bystanders watching the trucks, carrying nuclear waste passing by? Not much. To become irradiated, a person would have to stand close to a shielded source of radiation for a considerable time, depending upon the flux density. A truck going 50 mph is moving about 73 feet a second. Thus, the time of exposure would be too short to be dangerous. Solar radiation and naturally occurring radon gas are more dangerous to public health than Yucca Mountain would be.
Regarding water supplies, I have never heard or read about water wells outside the Nevada test area being radioactive. Mr. Reid, in your position you should be able to find out. Why don't you do this and let the public know? If all of the nuclear bombs exploding deep underground have not contaminated wells, then it is unlikely radioactive material stored in Yucca Mountain would either.
Mr. deBottari is concerned that his computer model of the metal containers may be in error. His analogy of comparing the stress calculations for a supersonic airplane and a metal drum is very inappropriate. It's almost like comparing an eagle and a pet rock. The half life of radioactive elements is very well known.
The U.S. government has had over 50 years to observe and test the effects of nuclear radiation on all types of metals. I admit that there can be errors in calculations; however, that's why safety factors are added. So what if the drums only last 95,000 years? Another ice age could occur in that length of time and rearrange the landscape.
The nuclear waste storage problem will not just fade away! Vice President Gore has still not revealed to us what his better and alternate plan for nuclear waste storage will be. Is he keeping this a secret until after the election?