Environment News Service

Ameriscan: December 1, 1999

Nevada Challenges Changes To Yucca Mountain Safeguards

WASHINGTON, DC, December 1, 1999 (ENS) - Nevada officials are angry about the latest revisions proposed for the future Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site. Yucca Mountain, located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, is the only site being studied for the permanent disposal of high level radioactive wastes, including 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel pellets encased in metal rods. The proposed revisions, published Tuesday in the Federal Register, would eliminate certain safeguards at the site, including a requirement that water from the surface of the site must take a minimum of 1,000 years to reach the radioactive wastes stored deep beneath the ground. U.S. Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada democrat, said the proposal could threaten the health and safety of Nevadans.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Reid expressed "grave concern" over the policy revisions. "Generally, the changes cited in your proposed rule-making do very little to dispel the perception that earlier guidelines are being abandoned because they would disqualify Yucca Mountain from any further consideration as a permanent disposal site," Reid wrote. "It is perfectly clear and 'transparent that surface water has penetrated to Yucca Mountain's repository depths in less than 40 years. That characteristic surely violated the earlier criterion that such water migration must take more than 1,000 years." In 1996, scientists discovered that chlorine left over from atmospheric nuclear testing had penetrated Yucca Mountain rocks, indicating that water had seeped to the level of the proposed repository within 50 years.

Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.