by Ron Bourgoin
Thanksgiving would be an appropriate time to open a repository: while Americans are stuffing turkeys, the DOE can be stuffing a mountain.
The DOE says the cans it'll stuff in mountains will hold waste for at least 10,000 years. The newest forever metal from which cans will be made was developed at Lehigh University. [http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-04/lu-nav040405.php]
I don't have a problem with claims made about the lifetime of can metal. What I have a problem with is man working inside the mountain repository. Cans will be smashed into cans, and cans will be smashed against mountain walls. Cans will be put on top of cans, and the ones on the bottom will spill their contents. Before the final sealant's applied to close the mountain off for eternity, lethal uranium and plutonium will already be migrating outward to soil and ground water. Politicians can talk all they want to about how cans will simply be retrieved in case high levels of radiation are measured coming from the mountain, but the fact is no-one's going to do that. If it takes 30 years to fill a mountain, it'll certainly take no less to empty it, and by that time it'll be too late to save the area.
We have to remember that Yucca Mountain, for instance, is slated to be stuffed with 20,000 cans. That job's got to get very boring after a while, which is when problems will begin. We can all expect the first 100 cans will be entered in the mountain according to specs, especially with the public and smiling DOE, NRC, and EPA officials watching. But what worries me is what bored mountain stuffers will do with can numbers 101 to 20,000.
Whether Yucca opens or not doesn't erase the fact that this will happen in any repository.
Editor's note: To read prior op ed columns by Ron Bourgoin, put "Nuclear waste watch" in the search box on The Joplin Independent homepage.Go Back