Should Yucca Mountain be used to store nuclear waste?
With the imminent license renewal of the majority of US nuclear power plants and the insistence of the Bush administration to build additional plants, the need for long-term storage of nuclear waste is greater than ever. Current estimates have the nation's 103 nuclear reactors producing 84,000 metric tons of waste by 2035 (Hansen, 2001). With the current containers either close to or completely filled, the Department of Energy has chosen the Yucca Mountains as the permanent repository for nuclear waste. A seemingly ideal location, Yucca Mountain is 100 miles outside of Las Vegas, with the nearest humans 15 miles away (Hansen, 2001). However, many environmentalists and Nevada residents have grave reservations about putting the permanent storage at Yucca Mountain, citing concerns such as waste transportation dangers, geological instability, and the inability of the site to store all of the United States waste.
They feel this is a hasty decision that is political in nature (Hansen, 2001). While the storage of nuclear waste is not an ideal situation, America's current reliance on nuclear power makes it a necessity. The Yucca Mountain repository is currently the best option for long-term storage because of its relative isolation from human settlements, natural geological features, and its large storage capacity.
Since nuclear waste is deadly to humans, the location of a long-term facility is crucial. In the event of a catastrophe, the ability to isolate the area effectively and expose as few people as possible to danger is critical. With the closest humans 15 miles away, Yucca Mountain is an ideal place to build the repository. The location provides the safety necessary for the success of the project by limiting people's exposure to radioactivity. The desert isolation also provides better security for the site, protecting from...