Pahrump Valley Times

July 2, 1999

No YMP showstoppers found in water study

Richard Stephens

BEATTY — "We haven't found any fatal flaws, drop-dead issues, or anything like that."

Tom Buqo offered that assessment of Nye County's Yucca Mountain drilling project following his presentation to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board in Beatty Wednesday.

The meeting, which featured many technical experts from around the country, included presentations on a wide range of technical topics related to the Yucca Mountain project, roughly 20 miles east of Beatty.

In his presentation to the board, Buqo bad mentioned a "gamma spike" that had been somewhat of a surprise in we well, but said that it came from uranium, which was known to naturally occur in the area.

Small amounts of tritium had also been found in some of the well water tested, but Buqo said that it was only 5 picocuries per liter, and that water in Lake Mead currently tests at 50 picocuries per liter, the national health standard being set at 20,000, He said that the source of the tritium was "all the above-ground nuclear testing here and around the world back in the fifties."

While the amounts of radiation from naturally occurring sources and the mentioned testing are small, Buqo said they have to be taken into consideration when computing risk factors because radiation from all sources is cumulative in effect: "it all adds up."

Buqo said that the real "showstopper" for Yucca Mountain would be the discovery of radiation migrating from the test site, and they have not found that.

In his presentation, Buqo also took the opportunity to make the board aware of changes taking place in the communities in the area, speaking of present and projected population growth in Pahrump, and of changes taking place in Amargosa Valley.

He also expressed gratitude to Amargosa Valley residents who had volunteered the use of their wells for testing, "We're getting calls from farmers wanting their wells tested," he said He expressed special gratitude to Susan Records for the use of a well that had saved the project the expense of drilling another half-million-dollar well.

Commissioner Jeff Taguchi expressed disappointment at the lack of attendance by locals at the meeting. A few did turn up the second day, bid the only Nye County residents to speak during the public comment section were Earl McGhee of Amargosa and Sally Devlin of Pahrump.

One state of Nevada representative characterized the process as "careening toward site characterization" (recommendation of the site), and expressed concern that some important data would not be ready in time to be considered before the final decision was made, a concern that was echoed in the public comment segment.

McGhee commended the hard work of the board, but said that it was in the wrong direction, that it was "insane" and "stupid" to bury the high-level nuclear waste underground. He said he was unhappy that it had been created in the first place, and recommended the building of the most indestructible containers possible to store it aboveground and working harder on finding ways to process or control the waste.

Countering the potential argument that no container could be proven to last 10,000 years, McGhee asserted, "Humanity as we know it isn't going to last 10.000 years."

Two anti-nuclear activists also spoke, saying the country needed to stop producing nuclear waste and put more effort into finding a solution. One, Glynn Hazlett of Tecopa, Calif., also said that Yucca Mountain was sacred to the Wsetern Shoshone, and that putting nuclear waste there "would be like storing it in your churches."

In his concluding remarks, board chairman Jamd Cohon thanked Beatty for its hospitality, noting that it was important for the people involved in the project, "from Washington Pittsburgh, and other places" to come to the area and see the communities near the proposed repository.