Spent Nuclear Fuel Edges Closer To Yucca

The Department of Energy has announced a timeline for the nuclear-waste site, as opposition intensifies in Nevada.

"The DOE has thrown its support behind legislation that would speed Yucca's progress by "streamlining" some remaining regulatory hurdles. "People on both sides of the aisle are seeing the need for an expansion of nuclear energy," says Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the department. "We're just looking at [the political dialogue] as a positive development in the discussion as we're moving ahead with the nuclear renaissance in this country."

After all, Yucca is widely touted as the world's most studied piece of real estate. The Nevada laboratory facility currently employs about 2,000 scientists and staff - a research effort that has already cost the government about $8 billion. Energy officials are convinced of the facility's safety."

Thanks to Ashwani Vasishth

Full Story: Spent nuclear fuel edges closer to Yucca

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A Less Sanguine View of Yucca Flats

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an article with a much less sanguine view of Yucca Flats. Here are some quotes:

"Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the nuclear dump site won't open until 2017 -- almost two decades past the original 1998 inauguration target and five years beyond the most recent scheduled opening date.

The latest delay climaxes a yearlong debacle at the Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada -- a debacle during which staff scientists were suspected of fraud, federal investigators blasted the project's management, and project officials announced plans to revamp the operation and redesign the burial site. On July 14, according to news reports, officials said they'd lay off up to 500 employees as part of the planned reorganization."

"Four years ago, President Bush, seeking to make nuclear power a cornerstone of his energy policies, unveiled a plan to complete the project by authorizing the Energy Department to file for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to open the site. The Energy Department still hasn't filed the application, in part because it's still struggling to come up with a workable repository design that will withstand the commission's scrutiny.

That scrutiny could be particularly intensive given the recent highly publicized scandal over suspicions of data fraud inside the Yucca Mountain project. Additionally, if Congress isn't convinced that the project can pass examination by the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, it can refuse to bankroll construction or to fund the expensive transport, by truck and rail, of the nation's spent fuel to Nevada.

The review board, one of the proposed repository's most dogged and distinguished critics, is an independent agency chartered by Congress in 1987 to provide independent scientific monitoring of the project. The board consists of presidential appointees and a technical staff.

On May 16, board chairman R. John Garrick testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that the Energy Department's computer model for the repository "may not give a realistic picture of how a proposed repository would perform" over the centuries. Garrick noted that the repository must be able to withstand unprecedentedly severe conditions, namely, "above-boiling repository temperatures that will last for about 1,000 years," which, he added, are difficult to model in computers.

The most potentially fateful recent development involving the planned dump site was the revelation last year of several private e-mails among U.S. Geological Survey scientists working for the project. Some e-mails hinted that researchers were faking data used in developing computer models for simulating one of the most important scientific puzzles at hand: How quickly water flows through Yucca Mountain."

from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/24/MNGIHK4CSM1....

Charles Siegel

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