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The real truth about Yucca Mountain

When I first read Justin J. McCarthy’s Guest Column of Aug. 13 titled “The truth about Yucca Mountain,” I thought why is this an issue for Summit County? I should think Mr. McCarthy would be more interested in dealing with solutions to some of Summit County’s real problems like affordable housing, transportation and sustainability of the economy and quality of life.

Yucca Mountain is not an issue for us. These are scare tactics that are not constructive to solving a pressing environmental problem.

All of us would like to see nuclear waste disappear, but it will not. It will not be safe left in the 100-plus locations around the country; especially if nuclear power plants are shut down and there is no infrastructure left to safeguard the facilities. At nuclear plants (where 20 percent of the nations electric power is produced) the waste is stored in pools and is certainly more accessible to sabotage than if in disposal or transportation casks.



My biggest problem with Mr. McCarthy’s approach is that he has no approach to solving this serious environmental problem. He only cites problems with the existing solution that scientists have pondered for decades. They decided that retrievable geologic disposal is the best alternative, and Yucca Mountain is a site suitable for proceeding on to licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That process will take at least three years and involve extensive public participation. Under the current law, if the project is licensed and operated, the waste must be retrievable for at least 50 years, and it is likely that the decision to close the repository will be left to future generations beyond 50 years.

Therefore, if a mistake has been made, or new technology is developed to use or recycle the waste, then it will be removed.



There are many errors and half-truths in Mr. McCarthy’s column. I would like to correct one of the most apparent errors. Sandia National Laboratory has adequately tested transportation casks under severe accident conditions.

There has never been a transportation accident in the U.S. where there has been a nuclear release. There have been 2,700 safe shipments of high level nuclear waste in this country. In Europe 70,000 tons of nuclear waste have been safely transported. And at the present time the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is investigating additional testing of casks just to be sure earlier work was sufficient (www.nrc.gov and ttd.sandia.gov/nrc/modal.htm).

I lived in Las Vegas for seven years and heard the political rhetoric over and over. They too have bigger problems to worry about, but have chosen to use the nuclear waste issue to scare their electorate.The truth is Nevada is not willing to shoulder its share of a national burden even though it has the most suitable site for a repository in the world.

I was at the Yucca Mountain site many times. One thing I agree upon with Mr. McCarthy is you should visit the site and research the facts so you can decide for your self if it is the correct approach for the nation. Public tours are offered monthly in the fall of the year. More information is available from the following Internet sites: http://www.ymp.gov and http://www.ans.org

R. Glenn Vawter is a professional engineer and an energy and environmental consultant to government and industry. He lives in Keystone.

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