The Yucca Mountain controversy has been gaining heaps of attention with the availability of an online mapping service June 10th showing how close nuclear waste would be trucked by your home (downloadable national map of the routes). Right on the heels of this service, came a 4.4 earthquake raising fears that Yucca Mountain might not be a clever locate for highly radioactive materials.
There is no one area that takes care of this waste. Instead, most nuclear plants store their waste on-site and in 131 above-ground facilities in 39 states. However, many nuke plants are generating more than they can handle. Currently there is 77,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste waiting for a permanent home.
Since the only way radioactive waste finally becomes harmless is through decay, which for high-level wastes can take hundreds of thousands of years, safe storage is essential.
President Bush endorsed the Yucca Mountain site February 15th; it could be up for full Senate vote as soon as July 25, 2002.The House already has agreed to set aside Nevada's veto of the Bush plan.
Understandably, Nevada, the location of Yucca Mountain, is not to happy about this proposed site.
'Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, a long-time foe of storing waste at Yucca Mountain, lashed out at Bush's decision, saying the president has betrayed his state and the environment.
"President Bush has dropped the equivalent of 100,000 dirty bombs on America," Reid said in a statement. "All Americans should be concerned, not just because he lied to me or the people of Nevada and indeed all Americans, but because the president's decision threatens American lives."
He said Bush's plan will eventually result in a shipment of 100,000 truckloads or 20,000 rail cars full of nuclear waste coming into Nevada -- what the senator called a prime target for terrorists.' (http://www.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/02/15/bush.nuclear.waste/index.html)
This graphic from the DOE shows how the government plans to shield radioactive material.
CONCEPTUAL DRAWING OF YUCCA MOUNTAIN
1. Canisters of waste, sealed in special casks, are shipped to the site by truck or train.
2. Shipping casks are removed, and the inner tube with the waste is placed in a steel, multilayered storage container.
3. An automated system sends storage containers underground to the tunnels.
4. Containers are stored along the tunnels, on their side.
Should the Yucca Mountain gain final approval, this is the timeline of proposed operation: