Senators: Yucca caskets may leak |

Senators: Yucca caskets may leak

Nuclear casks designed to hold nuclear waste for 250,000 years could break down in less than a 1,000 years, according to a study by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Ensign, R-Nev., say the study provides more evidence that Yucca Mountain is not a safe place to store nuclear waste.

The review board is drafting a letter to the Department of Energy which says the waste containers designed to store the waste could leak sooner than originally thought -1,000 years or less.

Ensign and Reid staff members were briefed on the report Tuesday.

“The storage of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is, quite simply, scientifically unsound, as we in Nevada have been saying for years,” said Ensign.

He said the Department of Energy has “chosen to ignore compelling scientific data in the past,” but that he hopes this latest report will help make the point.

Reid said the report “appears to confirm that the project puts Nevadans at extreme risk.”

Originally, supporters of the waste dump touted the mountain itself as able to keep the nuclear waste from ever contaminating the atmosphere. But studies showed the mountain is riddled with cracks, surrounded by earthquake faults, and has evidence that groundwater flows through it much more rapidly than originally believed.

When the mountain itself couldn’t provide the protection from leakage, supporters of the dump shifted to the waste containers, which officials originally said were designed to last up to 250,000 years without leaking.

According to the briefing given to Reid’s and Ensign’s staffs Tuesday, it has been shown that the heat generated by the waste will evaporate the water surrounding the casks during the first 1,000 years of storage.

“The salt brine left behind will corrode the casks to the point of failure and could cause the release of a massive amount of waste,” said a statement issued by the senators following the briefing.

The proposed dump would be just 75 miles north of metropolitan Las Vegas.