Politics gets in way of science at Yucca
I normally agree with most of what Mr. Bob Thomas publishes in the paper, probably because what he writes about is based on knowledge that he has gained through the years of living here. His recent article about the Yucca Mountain project is an exception.
Mr. Thomas has always had a latent mistrust of the bureaucrats in Washington. In this article, he trumpets that we must trust the scientist. Unfortunately, the scientist’s hands and brain have been tied by the Congress and the nuclear power lobby. If Mr. Thomas had read the draft environmental impact statement, he would have seen it was vague and silent on many important issues.
This document, at first glance, looks like a document that is the work of unbiased authors. Upon reading this document, one very quickly comes to the conclusion that the authors did not want to really study the problem, but instead created a document that attempts to justify a political decision. The report uses adjectives to state conclusions. Adjectives are not used in engineering documents. Sales brochures use adjectives to sell the product and this is a poor but expensive sales brochure for an Edsel of the energy business.
A DEIS public hearing is supposed to inform the public of the good and bad of the proposed project. DOE has gone out of their way to make sure that the general public is not informed. The “public hearing” is similar to a three-act play. The first act is a sales pitch similar to the pitch for time shares, the second act puts the audience at ease by the question and answer period. An intermission helps to reduce the audience as many think they have given their comments and after the intermission the public hearing begins.
DOE does not want the public to be aware of the many routes through cities in 43 states. An example of this plan, one public hearing has been held in California (in Lone Pine). What would be the reaction of the California congressional delegation if the public in California were made aware that nuclear waste was planned to be moved on Interstate 5 and 15 from border to border.
The DEIS does not look beyond 20,000 years but yet there is nuclear contamination to the public water supply for almost a million years after the storage containers have eroded away. The elements that will do the contamination are not discussed in the report.
The problems of attacks during the movement of the nuclear waste has not been addressed. The most important aspect is the air pollution generated by a small missile penetrating the transportation container.
DOE states in the report that after closure, they will monitor the repository for thousands of years. There is no discussion on what will be monitored but most important there is no plan on what action can be implemented if the monitoring equipment reports a danger to the public health.
There is no reason for a rush to complete this project. All the experts on both sides of the table agree that the material is safe where it is presently stored. I suggest that a group of scientists from outside of DOE and the industry associated with it be charged with the responsibility to study for the next 50 years the optimum way to rid this earth of the dangerous waste. They should be charged with the task of writing the DEIS in support of the desired method. We then would have 50 years to implement the selected approach. Congress should stay out of the the technical decision. Amendments to bills that limit where and what materials can be studied should not restrict the technical approach. Cost should not be a primary driver when human health for future generations is at stake.
Mr. Thomas, do your homework before you join a side.