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Yucca Mountain, Open For Business 366

John Galt writes: "It seems the Feds have finally decided that Nevada will host the government's nuclear waste repository." The Yucca Mountain project has been in the works for a while. Here is a cutaway diagram.
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Yucca Mountain, Open For Business

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  • Imagine what sort of a hideout that would be, for, say, an international terrorist or two ...

    Man, the world is definitely getting to be more like "James Bond" than it is "Space, 1999".


    Anyway, big deal about this nuclear repository problem, anyway. Once it's there, it's there, and all we gotta do is keep an eye on it.

    Of course, getting it into that hole is going to be interesting. Imagine what a security nightmare *THAT* is going to be... I'd say a train carrying a bunch of nuclear, radioactive, material through, oh, say, 20 different states would be a pretty handy for any sort of weapon that would *burn* it easily.

    Ercck. I don't even want to think about it. Way too much 007 ...
    • Imagine what sort of a hideout that would be, for, say, an international terrorist or two ...

      Quite a hot one according to the article - it's 400 degrees F (~750 celsius)

      Actually, maybe that's what you meant, it'd be like a 5 minute preparation for where they're going to end up for the rest of eternity ;-)
    • Umm, well I'm looking at one of the shipping/storage casks right now. I can't imagine anything that could *burn* that sucker other than a tactical nuclear device. Kinda ironic.

      I think a train wreck off of a tall trestle onto sharp granite wouldn't even scratch the damn thing. Oh wait, that was one of the design and testing criteria. Huh, no wonder.
  • by Mike Connell ( 81274 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:12AM (#2822355) Homepage
    What could be safer than disposing of unwanted bodies in the Nevada desert? Stick them in an enormous nuclear silo with 77 000 tons of stuff that'll kill you if you get near it! ;-)
  • "He said increased unease about terrorist attacks makes it even more important that the nation's radioactive waste be consolidated."

    Eggs. Basket. z
  • How much money could you squeeze out of the US govt. if you live next door, and turn up with cancer or lose your hair or go impotent or whatever? Enough to make the remainder of your life and your kids' lives comfortable, I would assume.
    And if you don't suffer any adverse effects, then what does it matter that there's nuclear waste next door?
  • by ct ( 85606 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:19AM (#2822381) Homepage
    1) add one part Nevada
    2) sprinkle with underground radioactive waste
    3) bake for two hours in the presence of Kevin Bacon

    Let me save you the wait - the resulting giant cannibal worms will be suckers for TNT & the last one will have to be tricked into burrowing off of a canyon ledge.

    (Yeah I know - calling Tremors [] art is stretching it a little... ok alot)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If this waste is supposed to be generating temperatures of 400 degrees, why can't it be used to generate power? Not even anti-nuclear people could argue against it; its already nuclear waste.
    • The 400F figure in the article is a worst case number for design verification purposes, with brand new very hot waste (and a lot of it) all stored together. The actual temperatures will be way lower, say 150F or less. Not enough to make power generation worthhile. But it's a nice thought anyway.
  • No Maps... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alpinist ( 96637 )
    Interesting to note is the removal of maps of the site from

    Didn't the Soviets classify maps too, to "minimize the risk of providing potentially sensitive information that could result in adverse impacts to National security"? (Quote from the site.)

    Brave new world, indeed! Am I the only one who misses September 10th?
  • Problems.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ishark ( 245915 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:32AM (#2822411)
    From the link:

    Energy Department scientists contend those issues either have been resolved or can be dealt with as a final design for the facility goes through the licensing process.

    I don't understand: if there still are issues which are not resolved, how can the decision to put the dump there be taken? What if the issues CANNOT be dealt with during the final phase? Does anyone believe that they will they be able to admit and back out?
    I'm not surprised that the local politicians (and I suppose also the population) are NOT happy about it....

    Also, in the post-9/11 world it'll be much harder to keep en eye on what's happening as "for security reasons" lots of stuff has been pulled from the Internet. For example, in France we have a recycling site at La Hague [] which used to give access to many webcams inside the installation (the new director's policy was "absolute transparency" to reassure citizens), but now they are offline....
    • Re:Problems.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mike Connell ( 81274 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @07:53AM (#2822577) Homepage
      Perhaps they have in the back of their minds the fact that at the moment the waste is being stored all over the country in various temporary containment facilities.

      I don't know for a fact, but perhaps even with the known problems for the new site, they still think it's better than the current situation.

    • Re:Problems.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by karb ( 66692 )
      I don't understand: if there still are issues which are not resolved, how can the decision to put the dump there be taken?

      In any engineering discipline, there are all sorts of problems which need to be solved. Just because those problems exist doesn't mean they can't be solved. In fact, you usually do something called 'risk reduction', which means you sit around and think of solutions to a problem, and backups to those solutions.

      Many public problems with the government (and the private sector, too) are the results of a 'common sense' approach to engineering projects. "I know how long it takes to drive to the grocery store, therefore the government should know, to the dollar, how much it would cost to build the most technologically advanced strike fighter in the world ten years before they do it."

      • Re:Problems.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hawk ( 1151 )
        If memory serves, one of the problems remaining to be solved is that the water table sometimes reaches above the level at which they plan to store the waste (every hundred years or two--but this is designed for thousands!).


    • Even if there are problems in Nevada it seems imperative to store this stuff at a secure site as soon as possible.

      As a Utah resident, I happen to be well aware of the industry's backup plan: They want to simply put the containers in a big parking lot owned by an Indian tribe. They would keep the containers there until Yucca Mountain opened. The nuclear energy industry has promised "a lot of money" (nobody knows how much) to this tribe, but the leadership of the tribe has recently shifted. Perhaps this had something to do with the decision.

      Anyhow, if anybody decided to drop an airplane on their open-air parking lot then bye-bye Salt Lake City. If the winds were just right Denever might go too.

    • The DOE is putting this in terms of a decision now, but the decision was made more then ten years ago.

      The DOE was ordered to study a list of sites, and to build at the site on the list which was safest. Not told to determine if any of the sites were adequate, but to choose the best and go forward.

      The list was: Yucca Mountain.

      That's it. No second candidate. Along the way, the general press in Nevada took to labeling the laws "Screw Nevada I" and "Screw Nevada II". Senator Johnston of Louisiana had the votes to push them through. When a professor at UNLV got a little to noisy about the problems with the site, UNLV received a supercomputer to shut him up (really. They never quite figured out what to do with it, but that's another story.) And then the building where DOE housed the project studing earthquake safety took over a million dollars in damage from--you guessed it!--a routine (for the region) earthquake.

      I'm a Nevadan, and my permanent home is in Las Vegas, about 100 miles from this site. I have absolutely no qualms about a nuclear storage facility that close to my home run by scientists. I'm terrified of what's being done here, though.

      One more time: There was not a study to see whetheror not the site was safe. Therewas a study to prove that this site was safer than, uhh, nothing.

      I'd feel a lot betterif this was turned over to the state (heavens, no, not the local governement. Look at the last couple of mayors of LV: Oscar Goodman, who became wealthy denying there was a mob while representing it; Jan Laverty Jones, commercial girl for the Fletcher Jones car dealerships who showed up at times in a chicken suit or in a black velvet jumpsuit as her own evil twin . . . [and if memoy serves, her opponent was worse!]). Fortunate, I live in county :)

      hawk, nevadan

  • hmmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gnovos ( 447128 )
    One would assume that you could go an dump your heavy metals in one of the pacific trenches and let it get sucked back into the earth's core, right?
    • Re:hmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by limber ( 545551 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @08:32AM (#2822672) Homepage
      Using deep-sea subduction zones to dispose of waste is an interesting idea that has been kicking around for awhile.

      However, there are a few concerns, some political, some practical which have not been sufficiently dealt with (yet), for use of this method to be deemed acceptable.

      It goes against the grain of current 'waste disposal' thought. In the past, the model used to be "dilute and disperse". Then, as we realized some pollutants remain toxic even in low low exposure rates, the model changed to "concentrate and contain". You can see this mindset in our acceptance of smokestacks: they used to be a sign of progress, now they're not welcome in your neighbourhood. So, simply dumping nuclear waste into a subduction zone gives the shivers to anyone raised in this mindset, even if logically you can show that the subduction zone does in fact carry material only downward -- you can't guarantee the waste isn't going to wind up someplace where it can do harm. Models can only show you what should happen; the real world often decides to disagree. So it's a tough approach to sell.

      The key thing is, once the waste is down there, you no longer have control. Who knows what might happen to it. Once waste is placed at the subduction zone, human intervention will be extremely difficult, whether by submersible or robot remote.

      If a waste container breaks open down there (and don't think you can economically design one that won't -- the forces down there are spectacular), there's not much you can do except cover it with dirt or other materials. "Oh, it's just one broken waste cannister at the bottom of the entire ocean" -- see how well that goes over with Greenpeace.

      The other main practical consideration is actually getting the waste containers to go into the subduction zones. Most subduction zones have thick sedimentation layers over
      their sea floor opening. We're talking about tectonic processes here, not vacuum cleaners. That is, any container you put there is just going to sit at the bottom for a long long time without actually going anywhere.
      • Re:hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @09:38AM (#2822844)
        If a waste container breaks open down there (and don't think you can economically design one that won't -- the forces down there are spectacular), there's not much you can do except cover it with dirt or other materials. "Oh, it's just one broken waste cannister at the bottom of the entire ocean" -- see how well that goes over with Greenpeace.

        Aww, who cares? The animals down there already glow in the dark...

  • ACK! (Score:4, Informative)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:37AM (#2822425) Homepage Journal
    This doesn't seem like it's the best solution here. I can think of two alternatives that aren't being used or investigated: 1) subduction zones. Put the waste deep into a subduction zone instead of a stable region like Yucca Mtn. Instead of hanging around basically forever, the waste will be pulled underneath the Earth's crust eventually. 2) Breeder reactors. Using breeder reactors would allow ALL of the Uranium isotopes to be burned in the production of energy, not just the U-235. That means that the ultimate waste product of the reactors would have a half-life of under 30 years instead of thousands of years. France deals with their nuclear waste like this already, and we should too.
    • 1) subduction zones. Put the waste deep into a subduction zone instead of a stable region like Yucca Mtn. Instead of hanging around basically forever, the waste will be pulled underneath the Earth's crust eventually.

      For large values of eventually.

    • by fwc ( 168330 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @09:23AM (#2822800)
      I agree with #2 above.

      When we started to do nuclear plants the idea was to build the plants we have today which basically "burn" Uranium. These plants usually take an enriched 3.5% U-235/ 96.5% U-238 mix (U-235 is what actually is Fissioned). After enough U-235 is spent to prevent efficient fuel usage, they remove the fuel and end up with a waste product which includes both U-235 and U-238 along with Plutonium-239 (Pu-239) isotopes and other radioactive isotopes.

      What was supposed to happen is that this spent fuel would be reprocessed to extract the unused U-235, the Pu-239, and the other products. These would then be used in a fast neutron reactor which would actually burn not only the fuel itself but the waste products, producing as a result waste with a half-life of about 30 years (safe after 300 years and a lot less volume to store).

      In the 1970's someone realized that the Plutonium-239 was also useful as bomb-making material. They decided that the risk of some of this being diverted to some third-world country which wanted a nuclear bomb was too high to take and so President Carter canceled the research project.

      There is still a lot of debate over the real risks involved. From everything I've read I think the real story is twofold - first the Plutionium isn't really "weapons grade" when it is reprocessed in this manner, so the risks are over emphasized. And second, I think that the people running the power plants don't want to do this because it is cheaper to just run the uranium through their plants once.

      • "In the 1970's someone realized that the Plutonium-239 was also useful as bomb-making material. They decided that the risk of some of this being diverted to some third-world country which wanted a nuclear bomb was too high to take and so President Carter canceled the research project."

        Which has ben shown then and now to be totally specious line of reasoning. The technology and cost to take a mixed oxide fuel (MOX) bundle and pull out the Pu to use to make a bomb would require the resources boyond the reach of almost all nations. But the main problem was that the neutron flux of commercial power reactor cores is "wrong" for breeding the Pu isotope most easily used to make a bomb. You need a different (and harder to maintain) neutron flux to get good bomb making Pu. MOX fuel from commercial reactor cores wouldn't work as a source of bomb making Pu.

        Only a few commercial plants in the US could be modified (such as the CE System 80 designs) to achieve the higher flux values to breed good useful quantities of MOX. It would be prohibitively expensive to convert the design of the rest. Even to use the resulting MOX bundles will require some design changes for most US plants.

        Next generation plants could easily have this ability designed in.
    • One problem with breeder reactors is that they operate at higher temperatures and pressure than most reactors in use today.

      With the current anti-nuclear hysteria the grips many people, they could simply never be built.
      • by PD ( 9577 )
        I guess all that plutonium in our nation's nukes was generated by hamasters then?
      • Breeder reactors that are designed to maximise Pu production from U-238 can operate at the same temp and pressure other plants have, they will have a much higher neutron flux though.
    • NO NO NO! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IPFreely ( 47576 )
      Why do people keep saying "Drop it in a subduction zone"? IT WON'T WORK in any way/shape/form at all.

      A. Subduction zones move material two directions. Soft material on top of the plate is scraped up and piled into mountains. Only the hard rock plate goes down. So anything we drop will go up, not down. You might as well put it in a mountain of your choice rather than a random mountain of the future.

      B. It takes for ever for anything to happen anyway. Geologically, Yucca is just as good as subduction. By the time anything happens, it will only have moved a few feet anyway.

  • Sub-Seabed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kEnder242 ( 262421 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:38AM (#2822429)
    There was a Scientific American article about this alternative solution a few years back.

    Vol. 276, Jan. 98, pp. 60-65, Burial of Radioactive Waste Under the Seabed.

    Holes could be drilled hundreds of meters below the seafloor in geologically inactive areas. Canisters spaced around 10 meters appart could be lined up around the bottom. Removal (in case something goes wrong) would not be a problem with a rentry cone at the top for a future drill.

    It turns out the mud under the seabed has a consistancy of peanut butter, ideal for slowing the spread of any radioactive waste.

    "Around 1,000 years later the metal seathing would corrode, leaving the nuclear waste expodes to the muds. In 24,000 years (the radiocative half-life of plutonium 239), plutonium and other transuranic elements would migrate outward les than a meter."

    Unfortunatly this soulution is sometimes grouped with "ocean dumping" an therefore prohibited by international law.

    (quick google search) ea bed.htm
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Like my brother the geologist once said: "Geologically inactive? What's that?"
  • by pgpckt ( 312866 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:44AM (#2822445) Homepage Journal

    The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management promotes the open review of documents by the public during the Yucca Mountain site recommendation consideration process. However, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, we have removed certain content from our Internet site to minimize the risk of providing potentially sensitive information that could result in adverse impacts to National security. The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management apologizes for any inconvenience that this action may cause. We appreciate your patience and understanding during these difficult times.

    We support open disclosure. Except to you. Or anyone else that might care about the safety of radioactive waste. I mean, not providing this info on the internet is to prevent terrorism! So that's good!

    Will Sept 11th be the excuse for the de facto revoking of sunshine laws and intrusions on liberties? I think maybe.
  • This might not appease the people in Nevada but it is many many times better than the haphazard method we use now of storing the waste at the nulcear sites.

    31 places to watch, to have an accident, to possibly poison ground water, versus 1.

    Its not a hard choice to make, especially given todays state of affairs
    • The biggest problem that Nevadans (like myself) have with Yucca Mountain is that the whole 'site selection' process has been a sham from the beginning. No other location has ever been under consideration, and the DOE has simply ramrodded this up the state's collective backside.

      I mean, they've been constructing the project for quite a while now, in anticipation of the eventual selection of the site, despite the citizen protests and the fact that ground water has been discovered there during construction.

      Despite all their protests that "we haven't really made up our minds yet", the writing has been on the wall from day one. And this announcement is a despicable PR sham.

      • Well you can thank your friendly democratic senators from the northeastern states (especially Vermont and Maine) for ten years ago ramrodding a law though making it illegal to consider a repository in granite bedrock (actually the preferred medium for a number of reasons). Thus removing a big chunk of the US from consideration. Where is the criticism of that "scientific" decision?

        Oh, I see, it's only republicans that can make politically motivated "scientific" decisions. Silly of me.
  • Yes, in an ideal world we'd produce electricity without producing hazardous waste, etc. But the bottom line is we're building up loads of waste. Its got to be stored somewhere and somewhere secure. Like a previous poster said, talk about an ideal target for a terrorist. Many of these power companies have the waste stored outside on cemet pads surrounded by motion sensors, razor wire fence, armed guards and such, but a determined terrorist could still get to it if he wanted. This stuff needs to be stored in a secure location. Here in NC, our local power co, CP&L stores its waste in holding pools, allowing for denser storage of the fuel rods. There was a huge fight with a nearby county about the expansion of those pools (Currently only one is in use and CP&L wanted to bring another online) Both sides spent millions claiming the other was wrong. But in the end? Its an easy target. One well placed technician who knows his stuff could find a way to empty that pool or disable the cooling system and you've got three mile island all over again as teh rods boil off the water and start a reaction - remember, these things aren't inside a cement surrounded reactor vessel - they're open on top for access.

    What kills me is millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted in non stop fights over this site. Yes, nobody wats it in their backyard and if I lived near the site (like within a few hundred miles) I'd probably think about moving. But in this world if its not a nuclear dump, its a real dump, a highway going through your house, high tension utility wires, etc. I'm currently in teh study area for a divided highway, with oone of the routes going straight through our house. Sucks huge not knowin if you'll still be allowed to own your house X years from now - nice to know that none of us realyl OWN our land :)

    • Well, at least they're told you they're going to build a road through your house and you didn't wake up this morning to a big yellow bulldozer outside your kitchen window. :)

      But your post is right on. Storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain is the least-risky route. Launching the stuff to space would be cool, and would certainly rid us of the stuff, but one disaster...

      Trucking it to Nevada and burying it under the desert is simply the best option. It would certainly be safe from "terrorists", as I imagine they'd never get past the security, and if they did, they'd die pretty quickly once they got underground with the stuff.

      Maybe someday we'll have an abundant source of power that doesn't produce toxic waste, but for now, we're stuck with fossil fuels or nuclear fission. Myself, I like nuclear fission, because all the waste is contained. Nuclear fusion would be wonderful, but that's been 10 years away for the last 50 years. Beaming power down from satellites definitly has the geek factor, but seems to be way to obvious a target for sabotage.

      I'm hopeful that this will finally go through.
    • We already have a ton of this waste. That's the critical part. YM is only being used for commercial grade waste and there is a lot of it out there already just waiting for an accident or to be stolen by terrorists or something.

      I think that it's far more likely that there could or would be an accident or "issue" at the dozens of sites around the country than at one storage facility.

      I think that are some other issues of praciticality too. Yucca Mountain isn't exactly Malibu or Park City or Tampa. For the forseeable future people aren't going to be aching the build on it. It's a desert, a rough desert. They aren't tarnishing prestine wilderness or some ultradesirable place to visit or live. The waste needs to be stored and that's as good a place as there is. Throwing out a few of the more radical climate change theories, YM is going to substantially change for thousands and thousands of years and it hasn't for many thousands of years. I also kind of dismiss the "forget about it idea" it is marked and unless there is a catastrophic change to the human race it will be remembered for several thousand years.

  • So, how long before Tor Johnson becomes exposed to the radiation and starts hunting 1950s B-movie babes?

    If you haven't seen it, you can download the film and other MST episodes here [].
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @07:48AM (#2822569) Journal
    Putting a nuclear waste dump in a mountain that sits on a fault line [] doesn't seem the wisest of ideas. It seems that it's still fairly active [].


  • Marking the Site (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KingRoo ( 232714 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @08:32AM (#2822673)
    Another question is how do you keep the site marked, and perceived as dangerous, for 10K years? What message will last through whatever potential societal chaos/collapse/evolution is a'comin?

    There was a design competition [] about this - my favorite is the Landscape of Thorns.

    • Another question is how do you keep the site marked, and perceived as dangerous, for 10K years? What message will last through whatever potential societal chaos/collapse/evolution is a'comin?

      You don't, but it doesn't really matter. The stuff that is most radioactive decays very rapidly, so it's not really all that dangerous.

      Anyway, it's bogus to assume that future civilizations are going to be more ignorant than we are. We can't avoid all possible dangers to the future citizens of the world. If civilization collapses and people are unable to read English or use Geiger counters, I think they have bigger problems than worrying about one dangerous site.

      People lose their perspective when it comes to nuclear energy. Over 1,000 people a year die because of the relatively mild CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards, yet we're supposed to worry about one reckless miner 10,000 years from now?

      By the way, the 1,000 people per year is a conservative estimate, it is NOT auto-industry hype and it is NOT because large cars plow into small cars. The last time I mentioned this on slashdot, somebody ignorantly said it was and he was, of course, moderated up as insightful. Here's a good article from USA Today [] about this issue.

  • by nihilvt ( 212452 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @08:36AM (#2822685)
    There's always a lot of talk of shooting nuclear waste into the sun and/or into space as an alternative to underground storage. Over the past 30 years, 77,000,000 lbs (35,000,000 kg) of nuclear waste (from reactors) has been created. Rockets commonly used today for space launches (Atlas, Delta, Titan, etc) can put about 4,000 - 5000 lbs into an earth escape trajectory.

    Give these numbers, that would require about 15,400 launches to get the nuclear waste off the earth and out of earth orbit. The rockets that we would most likely use for this have a failure rate of about %5. This would make about 800 failures. 800 failures in which 5000 lbs of nuclear waste could potentially be spread into the atmosphere and the air.

    I know these numbers are just numbers, and statistics are just statistics, but I think it shows that the risks for launching nuclear waste into space are unacceptable.
    • by jamie ( 78724 ) <> on Friday January 11, 2002 @10:46AM (#2823103) Journal
      Here's Robert Heinlein on nuclear waste. Expanded Universe, 1980, pp. 566-7. The President of the United States is speaking to one of her advisors:
      She touched a switch. "Get me the head of the U.S. Engineers. How would you dispose of nuclear power plant wastes? Rocket them onto the Moon as someone urged last week? Why wouldn't the Sun be better? We may want to go back to the Moon someday."

      "Oh, my, no! Neither one, Ma'am."

      "Why not? Some of those byproducts are poisonous for hundreds of years, so I've heard. No?"

      "You heard correctly. But the really rough ones have short half-lives. The ones with long half-lives -- hundreds, even thousands of years, or longer -- are simple to handle. But don't throw away any of it, Ma'am. Not where you can't recover it easily."

      "Why not? We're speaking of wastes. I assume that we have extracted anything we can use."

      "Yes, Ma'am, anything we can use. But our great grandchildren are going to hate you. Do you know the only use the ancient Romans had for petroleum? Medicine, that's all. I don't know how those isotopic wastes will be used next century ... any more than those old Romans could guess how very important oil would become. But I certainly wouldn't throw those so-called wastes into the Sun!

    • I would add one thing to your comments. All of those rockets use conventional fuels. If it came to the point where we would need/want to lift this stuff towards another planteary body, we would probably want to use a nuclear-powered system. In theory, your getting a lot more boost, carrying capacity and fuel weight effeciency from a nuclear-powered rocket.

      Random thoughts,
  • by rtos ( 179649 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @08:37AM (#2822687) Homepage
    Quoth Radiation Sources at the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress Buildings []:
    Gamma radiation dose rates were measured at several locations in and around the U.S. Capitol and U.S. Library of Congress buildings in Washington, D.C. A qualified radiation surveyor used a Bicron MicroRem meter for measuring. Dose rates inside the Capitol building and outside the Thomas Jefferson Building were measured at 30 microrem per hour. This dose rate: (1) exceeds local background radiation dose rates; (2) is up to 550 percent greater than the typical dose rate "at the fence line" around nuclear power plants; (3) is about 13,000 times greater than the average individual dose rate from worldwide nuclear power production; (4) is about 13,000 times greater than ongoing worldwide exposures to radiation from the Chernobyl accident; and (5) exceeds the dose rate associated with the radiation protection standards proposed for the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste facility. The measured level of radiation is associated with up to a 0.5 percent increase in cancer risk, according to U.S. EPA risk assessment methods.

    Yes, read that again. The pedestal for the statue of Roger Williams (Rotunda/Senate Chamber Hallway, U.S. Capitol) gives off about 30 microrem per hour... more than the proposed standards for radiation at the perimeter of Yucca Mountain. Just to put it in perspective.
    • I think I read an article a few years ago about this.

      The article is a little misleading. I believe the captiol statues are emitting Alpha particles, which are blocked by ordinary clothing.

      Many granite & marble structures emit some radiation, but not the hazardous gamma rays associated with pluotonium.
  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @08:53AM (#2822718) Homepage

    I've been closely following the Yucca Mountain investigations since the mid-1990s; my garage has hundreds of thousands (really!) of pages generated by various parties involved in this effort. I doubt DOE will continue to be so free with its literature, in light of "security cenrcenrs" raised by September 11th.

    But I digress.

    In a nutshell: "Approval" of the storage facility has been a foregone conclusion since the studies first began. Yucca Mountain was the only site studied, and any "problems" discovered have been ignored or glossed over.

    The real problem is a lack of planning -- it isn't just the "Internet generation" who can't think ahead. Back when we began building nuclear power plants, no one thought about what we would do with the waste -- and so it now sits in over a hundred locations around the U.S., in hardened canisters sitting next to power plants. Because no one looked ahead fifty years ago, we now have a crisis on our hands, and little chance to make a rational decision.

    The problem at hand: Nuclear waste needs to be stored somewhere, and Yucca Mountain is the only site selected for study. There may not be a rational, safe solution to the problem of nuclear waste -- and so Nevada's residents may take it in the shorts because of short-sighted and selfish politicians and

    I say "may" because Nevadans are unlikely to lie down and "accept the inevitable." They're a feisty bunch, especially the ones who don't live in Reno or Lost Wages -- er, Las Vegas. The Ages Brush Rebellion is gaining strength again in the American West; confrontations between federal officials and local residents continue to rise.

    You don't think this issue affects you? If you really think freedom is important, you might want to consider that Nevadans will be hosting nuclear waste that they did not create, as dictated by the federal government on behalf of big, stupid corporations. (Note: I like lots of businesses, even big ones -- but I have great disdain for stupid companies and people who impose their mistakes on others.)

    For a somewhat different perspective on the issue, consider this article about the people who actually own Yucca Mountain:

    Stealing Nevada []

    That article (which I am currently updating) has been published all over the world (search Google for it) in print and online. It won't make much difference, of course, because most people only care about right and wrong when it affects them directly. It's too bad, really; what the federal government is doing today with national IDs, intelletual property, and waste dumps is the direct result of letting them push other people around.

    Good luck to those in Nevada, Shoshone, Paiute, and other-American alike. You need it...

  • Frell it! It's "Sage Brush Rebellion", not "Ages Brush Rebellion!" Arrrghhhh... I even proofed the dammed article twice!

    Eh, I'll blame it on my dyslexia; I'm always typing things sdrawkcab...

  • Best not to repeat the errors of the Hanford site, near Richland Washington. Most likely part of the project will entail digging up the Hanford mess and re-burying it in Nevada.

    Desert does not mean, nor is, wasteland.

  • Do government officials really have no other ideas except to dump waste on Native American holy sites? If these were Christian or Jewish or Muslim holy sites there would be no way in hell. But because they're Native American (and who really gives a damn about Native Americans, I mean, didn't they go extinct years ago?) we can just shit all over them. es ources/documents/NCAIYuccaMtncomments.htm ht m .h tm
  • by yndrd ( 529288 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @09:54AM (#2822893) Homepage
    There was a great article in Analog a year or two ago in which the author debated how exactly one would label a place that will be highly toxic for tens of thousands of years. You can't use the same symbols or words we take for granted to mean danger; who knows what people will use to denote that in the distant future?

    Ideas bandied about included making the surface from dark stone tiles so it would be too hot to approach or making some huge symbol on the ground to warn people away.

    The main problem, though, was whether anything you do to warn people off would actually end up attracting them. Imagine making a huge warning that future generations or visiting aliens think is just something cool like the lines at Nazca.
  • Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @10:33AM (#2823053) Homepage
    NPR is reporting this morning that the plan cannot go forward until Nevada has agreed to it. Their Congressional delegation is strongly opposing it, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is also against it. Until Nevada agrees to it, nothing will happen until Congress votes on it. And they won't vote for it while Daschle is in the driver's seat.

    Nevada and Congress are aware of the issues involved in keeping this stuff in temporary locations, but there is a big NIMBY issue as well.

    IMO, it can't hurt to be very, very, very sure this will be safely stored. A couple more years of study are not all that much when you consider this crap will still be radioactive 10,000 years from now.
  • Forget Yucca Mountain, what about the experiments going on down in the Black Mesa Research Facility!!!
  • Just start burying the nuclear waste in the caves in Afghanastan?

    Just think of the benefits:
    • Osama couldn't hide in them anymore, and if he did, he would glow a nice conspicuous green.
    • It's no longer our problem, it's theirs!
    • Essentially, it's the same as burying it under a mountain, here.
    • It can suffice as an effort toward the war on terrorism.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Friday January 11, 2002 @10:49AM (#2823121)

    When it comes to storing nuclear waste permanently, people are wrongly conjuring up images of thin-metal barrels of waste in liquid being dropped off.

    WRONGO. Very likely, the radioactive waste will be mixed with molten glass and turned into glass balls, which are chemically extremely stable and have a tiny fraction of the radioactive output of spent fuel rods. These glass balls are then put into special large containers that are so strong even dropping them 30 meters wouldn't make anything close to a dent in the container. With the waste in barely radioactive form and these large containers, they could be dropped off anywhere undergground that has stable geology and never be an environmental problem to anyone.

    I remember there was a bad joke going around early in the current Bush Administration about sending all the nuclear waste to Texas. That joke quickly ended when people read that DoE is actually looking at salt domes at now-dry oil fields in Texas as nuclear waste repositories, since salt absorbs radiation extremely well and these underground salt domes are geologically very stable.
  • It will be much safer with used fuel rods out of the spent fuel pools at operating reactor sites. This should have been done years ago.

    The French underground site for radioactive waste disposal offers tours [] of their two disposal sites and one R&D facility. Their deep disposal R&D site is in rock that hasn't done anything exciting for the last 150 million years.

  • Now we can truck radioactive waste across the country on public roads to one geologically unstable location []! And as an added bonus it'll cost taxpayers about $50 billion. Gee, I'm sure glad our Prez has an energy policy!

    Is it just me, or is this a monumentally stupid idea?

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents