4.4-magnitude quake shakes up new controversy over Yucca Mountain

By Sylvie Dale, Online Editor

June 18, 2002 — While the U.S. Senate still is deciding whether to push Yucca Mountain through as the nation’s high-level nuclear waste repository, a 4.4-magnitude earthquake rocked a site about 15 miles away.

Officials have said the Friday quake did no damage to the Yucca Mountain site, but it is fueling the fires of debate between those who want to get the waste into a safe storage spot and those who are still worried about the scientific data, the New York Times reported.

A new article from Scientech/RCI weighs the pros and cons of the great Yucca Mountain debate in light of the new earthquake information.

According to the article, the quake was seen as proof by some that the site is not safe and that more research should be done first. But the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Yucca Mountain project office said that earthquakes are not a new piece of information and the area will be built to withstand 1,000 times more energy than that produced by Friday’s quake.

Although no one will argue that the site is proof against anything that could happen in the next 10,000 years (the design life of the repository), proponents are saying that enough research has been done to ensure the safety of nearby communities and that America cannot afford to wait another fifty years, the probable length of time it would take to find, approve and build another site.

Nuclear officials working on the Yucca Mountain project said they are aware that more than 600 seismic events of a magnitude greater than 2.5 have happened since 1976 within an 80-mile radius, and that their planning takes this fact into account.

To read the complete article, visit Scientech’s web site at http://secure.scientech.com/issuealert/article.asp?id=1276.
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has said that all questions would be answered before the NRC issues a license.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn on April 10 vetoed use of the site for nuclear waste storage, setting the stage for the House and Senate to be required to override his veto. The House did so on May 8 of this year, and the Senate is currently discussing the issue.

Only a simple majority vote is required, but the Senate must override the veto by July 25 or the program could be scrapped.

If the Senate has enough votes to also override the veto, the DOE will be able to apply for a site license with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. If the commission issues a license, the earliest the site could begin accepting nuclear waste is 2010.

More information about the Yucca Mountain Project, including the Final EPA Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain (40 CFR 197) is on the DOE web site at: http://www.ymp.gov.

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s Washington-based policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at http://www.nei.org.


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