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The truth about Yucca Mountain

Justin McCarthy

Guest Column

I was extremely disappointed with the Summit Daily’s recent article on Yucca Mountain. It was void of information and misleading. I have been visiting the gates of the Nevada Test Site were Yucca Mountain is located as an activist since 1993.

As a member of the Green Party our campaign strives to protect the environment and speak out against corporate welfare. As I campaign for County Commissioner, my supporters and I will continue to educate the public on this very real danger.

In 1987 the Nuclear Waste Policy Act identified Yucca Mountain as the targeted candidate for a nuclear waste repository. The fact is that the site has suffered from several earthquakes that have even destroyed DOE site buildings. The mountain is made of volcanic tuff over the area’s largest water aquifer. In fact a friend of mine’s wife works for the government researching volcanic tuff as a suitable geological formation to contain nuclear waste. She and her associate disagree with the Department of Energy’s scientist’s findings. As a result the DOE has barred them from coming on the Yucca Mountain site. The result is highly biased science in support of the site. If the regional aquifer is poisoned there will be irreversible results. Area water supplies will be threatened. Almosa Valley to the west will lose their ability to raise healthy cows to supply dairy products to southern California. Currently many environmentalists believe the local water has suffered already due to current low level nuclear waste dumping in bare trenches and nuclear weapons testing already at the Nevada Test Site.

The Department of Energy plans to transport high-level nuclear waste by truck and train through 43 states in reinforced casks. There have not been adequate tests for these casks. For the next 38 years 1,012 truck shipments and 12,928 train shipments have been planned to pass through our state. The DOE believes that there will be 150-400 accidents in the next few decades involving transport. If a containment cask breaks it would effect a 42-square-mile radius, take 460 days to clean up and cost $620 million. The threat is great to first responders in an event of an accident and others in the immediate area. Exposure to plutonium in a 3-foot radius causes a lethal dose of radiation with in two minutes. Currently the DOE plans to ship this waste right through Denver. They are mobile terrorist targets and accidents waiting to happen.

Unlike the Summit Daily article may have you believe, we are not safe here in the High Country. One transportation route by rail will go through Grand County. Right through Kremling and beautiful Gore Canyon. I have been through Gore Canyon via raft many times and watched the trains go by. This canyon is very treacherous and not easily accessible for clean up crews. In addition a cask break could poison the Colorado River. This would be a huge economic and environmental loss for Summit County and surrounding communities.

The actual domination of lands by the federal government in Nevada including the Yucca Mountain is in fact illegal by our own treaty laws with the Western Shoshone Nation. This act breaks the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863 and is morally unacceptable treatment of indigenous citizens and their rights. The government can show no transfer right of property title for the land it dominates. Many indigenous nations suffer from various severe effects of the nuclear cycle. From uranium mining to weapons testing and waste. This federal policy is environmental racism at its worst.

Sadly we are not safe and the Congress has passed an act that will not solve our nuclear waste woes. Yucca will not contain the waste we have. The government is already pressing for another site on the Gosuite reservation in Utah, despite tribal member’s outcry. The safest action is to have on site storage that would cost a quarter of the projected $60 billion for Yucca Mountain. Technology in years to come will bring us more choices and understanding than literally burying waste in a mountain for 10,000 years. In addition we need to shut down the nuclear utilities that produce dangerous waste and are highly subsidized by our tax dollars.

My campaign for County Commissioner, the Green Party and our supporters will continue to support sane solutions to this issue that effect us all. Currently, the state of Nevada has five court cases involving this issue. I invite you to come and visit the site in Nevada yourself this October. Please call me if you would like more information at (970) 453.8289.

Justin J. McCarthy is the Green Party candidate for Summit County commissioner.


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