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Putting the radwaste eggs in one basket.

Putting the radwaste eggs in one basket

The effort to dispose permanently of high-level radioactive waste is now focused on one site: Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Late last month, Congress scrapped its original, competitive, scientific site-selection procedure, established in 1982, which pitted potential repository locations in several states against one another (SN: 1/1/83, p.6), in favor of a new plan that targets the Nevada site.

"I think it's fair to say we've solved the nuclear-waste problem with this legislation," says Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), who was instrumental in pushing the legislation through Congress as part of a compromise budget measure. "The problem with nuclear waste has never been scientific," says Johnston, whose state had been considered as a potential site early in the selection process. "It's always been emotional and political." The strongest objections to the bill came from Nevada's representatives, who warned that the fight is far from over.

The new plan calls for the start of geological tests and exploratory drilling at Yucca Mountain as soon as possible. It suspends activities at sites in Texas and Washington state and halts the search for a potential repository location in the eastern United States (SN: 8/1/87, p.73). The legislation also shelves plans to build a temporary nuclear-waste storage facility near Oak Ridge, Tenn. (SN: 2/14/87, p.106).

However, the legislation does not specify what will happen if the Nevada site turns out to be geologically unsuitable for the location of an underground repository. Nevada officials have argued that Yucca Mountain lies in an area that may be vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The measure also doesn't set a firm timetable for constructing the nation's first nuclear dump. Department of Energy officials say that even if the Nevada site turns out to be acceptable, construction could not begin until 1998 at the earliest, and the repository wouldn't be completed until 2003.
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Title Annotation:planning for nuclear waste disposal site in Nevada
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 2, 1988
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