By the end of June, the US Senate will vote on whether to designate Yucca Mountain in Nevada the world's first permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste. Citizens Awareness Network is joining four other groups in a nation-wide "Nuke Waste Wagon Train" to alert and inform people and mobilize opposition to nuclear waste dumping, with the immediate focus on pressuring Senators to oppose Yucca Mountain. Yucca Mountain is unsuitable and unacceptable as a nuclear waste dump. It is not a solution for long-lived radioactive wastes_ethically, scientifically, or in terms of national security.
The Yucca proposal is environmental racism. Yucca Mountain lies on sacred lands of the Western Shoshone Nation_lands that have never legally been ceded to the US government. Shoshone land has already been contaminated by 1,000 nuclear weapons tests. The sacrifice of indigenous peoples and their lands is environmental racism and must stop.
The Yucca proposal is undemocratic. 80% of Nevadans, the Governor, and the Congressional delegation are opposed to the dump. Yucca Mountain can only be sited by violating democracy through the use Eminent Domain. Waste from 117 commercial reactors and more than a dozen military sites will be transported cross country on trucks, trains, and barges, regardless of states' and local communities' opposition.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and President Bush officially recommended Yucca Mountain in January, but Congress must vote on it because Nevada's Governor vetoed the decision. The recommendation was supposed to be based on sound science, but the facts show that the push for Yucca Mountain is based on politics.
Yucca Mountain is too unstable for nuclear waste. There are 33 active earthquake faults under or near Yucca Mountain. There is an active volcano less than 10 miles away and evidence of a magma pocket beneath the mountain. Despite being in the desert, there is significant groundwater: in the tunnels, electronic equipment has been ruined by dampness in the caverns; groundwater migrates from the surface in less than 40 years.
The government knows Yucca Mountain will leak. The scientific debate is no longer about whether the dump will leak. It's about when. The Department of Energy's standards only require that the dump keep waste from leaking for 10,000 years _ less than half of the first half-life of plutonium (24,000 years). Yucca sits above an aquifer that provides water for much of the Southwest US. Once waste begins leaking, it could contaminate drinking water in less than 70 years.
There is no scientific basis for approving Yucca Mountain. In January, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board characterized the DOE's scientific research as "weak to moderate." Last Fall_after 15 years and $7 billion of research_the US General Accounting Office found that DOE still had to resolve 293 technical issues before it could make a scientifically sound decision. Bechtel, the DOE's largest contractor, estimates it would take until at least 2006 to complete the research necessary for a sound scientific decision.
Transportation is dangerous and unjustified. A single irradiated fuel assembly contains up to 10 times the radioactive material released by the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Truck shipments of waste will contain several fuel assemblies, and train and barge shipments will contain up to 68 fuel assemblies. The DOE estimates up to 10 transport accidents per year, with shipments continuing for 25-30 years.
Nuclear waste is a target for terrorism. The "War on Terrorism" and the US's role in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are breeding more anger and animosity. Shipments will travel within one mile of 50 million people's homes, making them an ideal "dirty bomb" for attacks on US civilians.
Yucca Mountain will not protect reactor communities. Storage facilities on reactor sites will remain unprotected while waste awaits transportation and more waste is generated. The dump will only be large enough to store waste generated before 2001. By 2030, there will as much waste left in temporary storage as permanently dumped in Yucca Mountain.
Contact your Senators each week until the vote and demand that they oppose Yucca Mountain and support Nevada Governor Guinn's veto of the site designation. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 or toll-free 1-(888) 554-9256. Sign the petition at www.yuccapetition.org. Contact Central New York-CAN for more info on Yucca Mountain and the Nuke Waste Wagon Train (315) 425-0430 or www.nukebusters.org.
Tim Judson is a member of the CNY-Citizens Awareness Network, and will be traveling on the Nuke Waste Wagon Train this month.