Letter to Editor: Nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain

It's obvious the Bush administration has made up its mind about storing nuclear waste in Nevada at Yucca Mountain and doesn't want to be confused with facts. It might be better for us to quit wasting money and effort on a done deal and instead start working on getting a good monetary concession charge a steep storage fee -- and insist that the government put into place

safeguards that will assure that there will be no disasters while the waste is being transported to Yucca. I'm sure the Congressional leaders of the states that will have the stuff traveling on their roads and rails will support us in this.

The concept of nuclear waste storage has become a political and emotional issue, rather than a reasonable attempt to find a satisfactory solution to an admittedly difficult problem. If we had to choose a site, bury the material in current state-of-the-art containers and wait 10,000 years without touching it to see if significant leakage would occur, then we would be justified in insisting on guarantees that nothing would happen during that time. This is the picture that most people conjure up when the subject is discussed.

It's an unreasonable picture. Considering the amazing advances made in technology over the past 50 -100 years, I am confident that long before dangerous deterioration of the containers occurs, new, improved materials and containment methodology will become available to prevent a disaster. Ongoing monitoring of the condition of the containers should prevent any sudden catastrophe.

I'm not convinced that there is anywhere in the United States that would be safe to store radioactive materials for 10,000 years, but completely convinced that it would take 10,000 years, if ever, for everyone to agree on it. Our top national and state leaders have begun calling each other some pretty radioactive names and don't appear to be near a workable solution. No one can now, or ever, definitely promise that the waste will be safe for 10,000 years, 1,000 years 100 years or any other time frame. Several billion dollars, over many years, have been spent on trying to determine if Yucca Mountain is the best site for the storage. The results are largely inconclusive just as they would have been for any other proposed site. It's time for our leaders to stop the arguing, political posturing, money wasting and make a reasonable decision, not for 10,000 years, but for the next 10 to

20 and start scientists and industry searching for technology to ensure that we can handle any deterioration of containers, or other misfortunes that might befall.

This is not a mission impossible. Getting the politicians to do the right thing might well be.

Generally overlooked is the fact that if Yucca Mountain, or any other site, is selected for permanent storage, a great deal of material must continue to be kept at the current 73 sites in 34 states while being prepared for and awaiting shipment. Considering the limited supply and rapid depletion of fossil fuels, like it or not, we will have to rely more and more on nuclear reactors to supply our energy needs. The storage of used material will become more of a problem. It would behoove us to quit playing political ping pong with the issue and try to actually solve it.


Carson City


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