Yucca Mountain: High-Level Nuclear Waste Site by: Anthony Ricco Urbs/Geog 515:Race, Poverty, And the Environment (Spring 2004) Raquel Pinderhughes Urban & Environmental Studies Programs, SFSU
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by: Anthony Ricco
Urbs/Geog 515:Race, Poverty, And the Environment (Spring 2004)
Urban & Environmental Studies Programs, SFSU
Public has permission to use the material herein, but only if author(s), course, university, and professor are credited.
This presentation focuses on the environmental, social, and public health issues related to Yucca Mountain, high-level nuclear waste site in southern Nevada. It is designed to:
-Explain what nuclear waste is
-Explain the public health effects of nuclear waste
-Explain why Yucca Mountain was proposed as a storage site for nuclear waste
-Convey the environmental impacts and risks of the site by explaining the problems associated with it
-Convey the Social Justice issues
- Reveal some of thepolitics dealing with Yucca Mountain
Nuclear waste contains atoms that are unstable. As these atoms change to become more stable, they give off invisible energy waves or particles called radiation. There are several types of radiation, and all types cause cancer and inherited birth defects.
“Radiation is measured in how strong the dose of radiation, which is usually measured in rems or sievert (100 rem(msu)=1 sievert(sv)). An exposure of 100sv will cause death within days, 10-50sv will cause death from gastrointestinal failure in one to two weeks, and with an exposure of 3-5sv will cause red marrow damage”(Energy and the Environment by John May).
Severe exposures also may results in burns, vomiting, hemorrhage, blood changes, hair loss, increased susceptibility to infection, and death. Low-level exposure symptoms are thyroid cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, skin cancer, and eye cataracts.
Radiation from nuclear waste also causes DNA mutations that change individuals’ genes and can be passed on to future generations. The average dose for a nuclear worker is 50 msv per year.
US nuclear regulatory com.
“It was wet 10,000 years ago in the Nevada desert where the federal government plans to bury the nation’s nuclear waste, and climate change could make it wetter again in about 600 years.” Geologists and climatogist say there is going to be a change in the climate in about 600 years, so there will be a change in the amount of water delivered to Yucca Mountain.
Known that the climate will change, they cannot predict how wet it could get at the dry Yucca Mountain site during the more than “10,000 years the nation’s nuclear waste is expected to remain radio active there.”
Yucca Mountain is located within “Newe Sogobia, the sovereign territory of the Western Shoshone as recognized in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.”(www.honorearth.org) “The Nevada Test Site was carved out of their territory and today, the Western Shoshone Nation is the most bombed nations on earth. The United States has detonated more than 1,200 atomic bombs in their territory. High rates of cancer and illness related to atomic fall-out plague the people, who suffer from this historic injustice without any government health assessment, rectification or medical aid”.(greenaction.org)
Western Shoshones Joe Kennedy, left, and Ian Zabarte stand inside the exploratory tunnel in Yucca Mountain with Kami Sue Miller of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. Photo by Gary Thompson.
“Because of their proximity to Yucca Mountain, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe near Ely filed requests last year with the Interior Department seeking affected Indian tribe status .“ “But after more than 14 months, the Interior Department has not acted on their requests, casting doubt in the mind of native Americans that they will be treated fairly as the licensing period approaches. (www.death-valley.us)
I think that Yucca Mountain should never be opened and contain high-level nuclear waste. Obviously it’s not safe to hold the waste for a long period of time. There are still other solutions out there, but only technology will get us these. Scientist should have the last say, not the politician.
We should mandate laws making the companies producing the waste, responsible for their own waste and letting them figure out better ways to deal with it themselves. Make them pay the price for their production, not the taxpayers. Maybe they will realize that their waste is harmful and will reduce production of nuclear waste.
I also think it was smart of the EPA to think about the future generations and to come up with ways to communicate and warn them.
I do think that the waste could and should someway be used to make electricity, but just like waste to energy plants, there is always a by-product and we will still have to do something will that. This huge problem is just like any other environmental problem; it can never be avoided completely, just reduced.
Honor The Earth (April 2004) www.honorearth.com
Green Action (April 2004) www.greenaction.org
Department of Energy (April 2004), http://DepartmentofEnergy.Org
Environmental Protection Agency, (April 2004) www.epa.gov
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (April 2004) http://NIRC.Org
Spotts, Peter (2002) How Safe Is Safe? The Christian Science Monitor Vol. 94, No. 101
Ritter, Ken DRI Staff say climate might not be stable at Yucca , Reno Gazette Journal(March10,2004)
Ritter, Ken DOE drilled about plans for shipping nuke waste to Nevada, Reno Gazette Journal (March 6, 2004)
Ritter, Ken Reid Calls For Yucca Closure, Reno Gazette Journal
Death Valley US www.death-valley.us.come
Energy and the Environment by John Ma y
*For more Information about Yucca Mountain visit the following sites:
Yucca Mountain Project: www.ymp.gov
Nuclear Regulatory Commission: www.nrc.gov
Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Waste: www.state.nv.us/nucwaste