The Inyo Register

Experts probe DV-Yucca water link

Consultants say even if link is established it would not halt development of nuclear waste storage facility

By Julian Lukins
News Staff

May 2, 1999

Experts are, probing whether any radioactive leak from the. proposed nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain, Nev., could ultimately contaminate water in Death Valley.

Fears have been expressed that radioactive particles might find their way into the groundwater under Yucca Mountain, eventually filtering into aquifers in the Death Valley area, just across the state line.

Currently, Inyo County is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants to study the possible impact on local water sources. If approved, high-level nuclear waste could be stored. underground at Yucca Mountain beginning 2010.

This week, though, consultants admitted that even if a link were established between Yucca Mountain's groundwater and aquifers in Death Valley, it was highly unlikely that it would halt the project.

Consultant Michael King told Inyo County supervisors in Independence Tuesday that the federal government might place "conditions" on the proposed nuclear repository, but added: "To get an injunction to stop the repository would be very difficult."

Inyo County receives approximately $350,000-a-year from the federal government to carry out its own studies into how die proposed nuclear repository might affect the county. County planning chief Peter Chamberlin described groundwater studies as "the most significant."

King said consultants had taken water samples; from 21 springs and two creeks in Death Valley to try to determine whether water was coming from Yucca Mountain So far, research remains inconclusive.

King said he wanted to focus future studies on Furnace Creek, the Funeral Mountains and Amargosa Valley. Consultants wanted to drill two wells near Death Valley Junction, he added, explaining that the National Park Service (NPS) would not permit any drilling within Death Valley National Park. "I have to hike, six miles across wilderness areas where no one has set foot for over 30 years just to get one water sample," King said.

Chamberlin said California's representatives in the U.S. Senate were being sent reports On Inyo's groundwater studies at Yucca Mountain King said, "Is (Yucca Mountain's groundwater) connected to Death Valley? We feel we can resolve this issue."

King said Yucca Mountain's groundwater could also be linked with the Tecopa area.

Congress was scheduled to decide Yucca Mountain's fate within the next couple of years. Meanwhile, studies continue into the site's suitability for the permanent underground storage of the nation's entire stockpile of radioactive waste from power plants across the U.S.