Lovelock Review-Miner

Yucca rep visits Lovelock, and promotes nuke dump site north of Las Vegas

By Troy Daulton

October 17, 2002

A communications spokesperson who advocates the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, north of Las Vegas, said that citizens have an obligation to future generations to safely store the waste.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Bechtel spokesperson Ed Mueller told attendees at a Chamber of Commerce meeting here in Lovelock.

Mueller works in the communications department at Bechtel SAIC Company, LLC. He's been working on the Yucca Mountain project for five years.

Bechtel is one of two liaisons, along with the Department of Energy, that keeps local government informed of the project.

Mueller said that after Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and it was decided that deep geologic disposal was the way to go for nuclear waste disposal, there were 19 sites selected.

Due to costs, the 19 sites were narrowed to three. When even that proved too costly, the three were narrowed down to one - Yucca Mountain.

Yucca Mountain was decided upon because it was the safest, geologically, than the other two, according to government experts_ This decision was made despite the fact that the west is much more geologically active than the east.

"We have an obligation to future generations to take care of this waste," Mueller said.

There are 131 nuclear waste sites located in 36 states. Mueller said that high-level radioactive waste is currently temporarily located near populated areas and most sites are near rivers, lakes and seacoasts. He said that if there were a nuclear spill there could be contamination of the water.

The nuclear plants are running out of places to store the waste, he said. The laws regulate how much can be stored on a location. If it is exceeded, the plants will lose their license and will have to shut down, he said. "That would cut down on our nuclear power."

Mueller added that Nevada has seen the benefits of nuclear power plants even though there are none in the state.

Many of the nuclear plants in the country are built in large cities. He said that more than 161 million Americans reside within 75 miles of where radioactive wastes are stored, which is closer than the residents of Las Vegas are to Yucca Mountain,

The natural barriers of Yucca Mountain would work in concert with additional man-made barriers. Mueller said.

He listed the pros of locating a repository at Yucca Mountain:

  • In a desert location. Arid temperature with average annual precipitation of 7.5 inches per year

  • Isolated away from a population center in Nye County, approximately 100 miles from Las Vegas.

  • The repository would be secured 1,000 feet under the surface and 1,000 feet above the water table.

  • Surrounded by military and federal land.

Despite what is seen on television, nuclear waste is not a liquid. That image of the glowing green goo is incorrect, Mueller said. The waste is solid ceramic pellets.

Regarding the transportation of the nuclear waste, Mueller said that more spent fuel has already been shipped safely in densely populated Europe that could be shipped to Yucca Mountain under current law.

He also said that waste wouldn't start coming to Yucca Mountain until 2010.

The favored mode of transport is rail, Mueller said, but there may be other modes used. The governor will have the right to select the routes.

Mueller said that the tunnel at Yucca Mountain is currently being maintained and more geological tests are being done. The license application should be completed by December 2004, which is to be presented to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC can accept the application, amend the application or turn it down, Mueller said. The NRC has two years to make the decision on the application.

The construction could start in late 2006 or early 2007 and would take place three years until 2010. Waste acceptance would begin in 2010.

There are several outreach programs including individual and group tours. Visitors see the top of the mountain as well as in the tunnel. "You'll see how all the science comes together," Mueller said.

For more information call the national toll-free information line, 1-800-225-6972.