Ely Daily Times

10/8/99

Ely group told waste will leak at nuke dump

By Mark Woods
Daily Times Reporter

High-level nuclear waste is expected to leak through the Yucca Mountain Geologic Repository site according to the Department of Energy's (DOE) Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Draft EIS admits to water infiltration into the facility which will cause corrosion of the storage containers. The containers will then leak radionuclides into the water table that sits below the site. Contaminated water will then be transported to Amargosa Valley, according to Steve Frishman, State of Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office.

"The Draft EIS does not mention that Amargosa Valley has a large dairy farm which has a distribution that reaches approximately 30 million people," Frishman said during a workshop Thursday night at the Bristlecone Convention center

He also said that DOE overestimates the amount of time that water infiltration will occur. According to Frishman. research has proved that water will reach the containers within 50 years and not the "over 170 years" that the DOE estimates.

Another area that Frishman discussed during the workshop was socioeconomic impact. Explaining that there is no analysis of potential socioeconomic upset due to repository operation and transportation under both normal and accident conditions.

"The knowledge that nuclear waste transportation or accidents. are associated with particular locations can have adverse economic impacts on those locations due to stigma," Frishman said as be discussed how communities that are reliant on tourism will be affected by the fear tourists may feel due to perceived danger.

The DOE said that the amount of high-level waste that will be stored in Yucca Mountain will be 70,000 metric tons. During the life of the facility, the amount of waste that will be created by the 77 nuclear sites will be about 105,000 metric tons, Frishman commented Yucca Mountain will either fall short of being able to take care of high-level waste or will be forced to handle more waste than it is designed to handle.

According to Dr. Mike Baughman, president of Interich Services, Corp., and hired nuclear consultant for White Pine County, the push for Yucca Mountain is a political decision and not a health and safety concern. The Draft EIS shows how the impact of transporting the high-level waste to the site is more dangerous than leaving it where it is. The 77 sites that are currently storing high-level waste will be able to continue to do so safely over the next 100 years.

The U.S. has made, major advancements in technology over the last 100 years, explained Baughman. The entire nuclear age is only around 57 years old. It is expected in the next 100 years these advancements will continue to increase. Baughman said that by waiting, there is a very good chance that a more effective and safe alternative to storing high-level waste will he found.

The DOE has act up two scenarios for the no-action alternative in the Draft EIS. The first assumes that spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste would remain at the 77 source sites under institutional control for at least 10,000 years. Scenario two assumes that the waste would remain at the 77 sites in perpetuity, but under institutional control for only about 100 years.

"DOE states in the Draft EIS that it recognizes that neither scenario would be likely if there were a decision not to develop a repository at Yucca Mountain, however, they are part of the analysis to provide a baseline for comparison to the Proposed Action, " Frishman said, "If the alternative is not reasonable, then the comparison also is not reasonable, or of any substantive value."