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Commissioners told of Yucca Mountain benefits

Christine Kuklica
ckuklica@lahontanvalleynews.com
This is the south entrance to a tunnel at Yucca Mountain. Gary Duarte, director of U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation, recently told Churchill County Commissioners Yucca Mountain still have many benefits for its use.
AP FILE PHOTO |

The director of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation recently informed the Churchill County Commissioners about the positive benefits the state could obtain if a repository was built at Yucca Mountain.

Gary Duarte said nuclear energy was put on the back burner while the country increased dependence on coal-fired and gas-fired power plants. He said that has slowed down nuclear engineering and the need for scientists to develop future energy.

“We need more energy to compete with industrial manufacturers,” Duarte said.

Nuclear energy can resolve o energy needs now as entities continue to develop solar, wind and geothermal energy, he said. Forty percent of greenhouse gas is from electricity generation and 90 percent of that is from coal-fired power plants.

“Nuclear power is 97 percent greenhouse gas free,” Duarte said.

Duarte said Yucca Mountain is a $96 billion project, (2008 estimates) it has employed thousands of scientist and engineers, $7 billion has been invested in its design study and $15 billion is in an ongoing fund.

A commitment to nuclear energy development in Nevada, according to Duarte, would alter and advance technology business base and spur growth in science and engineering through the university system in Nevada.

“Nuclear is a great way to spur it back to a technology university structure where the future jobs will reside,” Duarte said.

A large factor for the advancement of any society is energy, Duarte said, is the world’s growing nations are building nuclear power plants to develop energy independence. He said France, Canada, England, South Korea, Japan, China and other major countries have been building nuclear power plants for the past 20 years.

“If citizens fully understand the importance of America completely resolving its energy future, it’s more important than any initiative the United States should undertake,” he said.

Duarte said the proposed Yucca Mountain railroad being considered to transport the spent fuel-waste to Yucca Mountain is estimated at $2 billion and would create 4,000 jobs during construction. A repository like Yucca Mountain is easier to monitor, regulate and secure, he added.

“Spent fuel consists of ceramic pellets encased in metal tubes,” Duarte said. “It is not a liquid, a gas, or green ooze. It cannot explode and does not burn.”

During the past 40 years, more than 3,000 shipments of spent nuclear fuel have navigated more than 1.7 million miles of U. S. roads and railways without accidental release of radioactive material, he said.

“A track record of safety,” Duarte said. “Shipping cases are about 15 times thicker than a gasoline tank truck shell, three inches of stainless steel and thick radiation shields.”

He said only specially licensed trucking companies will transport spent nuclear fuel and be tracked and monitored along public routes in order to meet strict safety requirements.

Duarte said he hopes the state’s rural residents will learn more about the economical growth a nuclear repository could bring, and he encouraged the leaders of the Silver State to move forward with the site.