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An Independent View

Yucca's engineering unsound

The following is excerpted from Science magazine. It was released April 26 and was written by Rodney Ewing and Allison Macfarlane, two scientists who are considered to be friendly to the nuclear power industry.

The Secretary of Energy, in his recommendation to the president, maintained that "sound science" supports the (Yucca) decision.

However, during the past eight months three government agencies have reviewed the suitability of a Yucca Mountain repository and have issued a series of revealing reports. In September of last year, the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a report that, among other points, concluded that the total system performance assessment in support of the site recommendation "relies on modeling assumptions that mask a realistic assessment of risk" and that "computations and analyses are assumption-based, not evidence-supported."

Last December, the General Accounting Office concluded that, "DOE will not be able to submit an acceptable application to NRC within the express statutory time frames for several years because it will take that long to resolve many technical issues."

This past January, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board expressed "limited confidence in current performance estimates" and found the technical basis for the repository performance estimates to be "weak to moderate."

In the face of the scientific uncertainties about the site, there is a surprising sense of urgency to move forward with a positive decision on Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. In the coming months, utilities that own nuclear power plants and states that have spent nuclear fuel stored at the reactors will press hard for action to approve the Yucca Mountain site, their concern heightened by fears of terrorist attacks on the storage facilities. Some have argued that the future of nuclear power is at risk in the absence of a positive decision.

The present sense of urgency is driven not by an understanding of the properties of the Yucca Mountain site, but rather by larger-scale policy decisions concerning nuclear power and national security. Decades of effort costing billions of dollars, and, in fact, our entire site-specific regulatory framework are now at risk if we do not accept Yucca Mountain as a repository.

The present decision to make Yucca Mountain a repository for high-level nuclear waste is a political decision ...

In our view, the disposal of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is based on an unsound engineering strategy and poor use of present understanding of the properties of spent nuclear fuel.


Citizen Alert encourages all Americans with sufficient Internet and computer access to look up their address on this system to determine how close their homes are to proposed transport routes. Users can also learn how many schools, hospitals, and people in their state are within one mile of a transport route, as well as state- and nation-wide statistics on truck and train accidents, including rollovers and fatalities.

EWG was not able to make the site accessible to all browsers. For those of you unable to view the maps with your browser, here are some locations of interest:Locations of Interest, Listed By Closest To Routes First

  • Disneyland
    1313 Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92803
    0.1 miles from from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    Nothing adds fun to a family vacation like radiation exposure! And an accident could provide more fun than you had planned for; ask the kids if they'd like to try the rides in Evacuation Land.


  • The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20500
    1.1 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    Makes you wonder what Bush is thinking, doesn't it?


  • Sears Tower
    233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
    1.2 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    This highlight of Chicago's skyline sits right by the path of nuclear waste transportation, as do all of the surrounding buildings. A catastrophic accident here would cost many lives.


  • Daytona Beach International Airport
    700 Catalina Dr, Daytona Beach, FL 32114
    1.7 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    What an unforgettable Spring Break party or golf trip it would be if you had to contend with a nuclear waste accident!


  • The Cabildo
    701 Charters St, New Orleans, LA 70116
    2.0 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    The site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. And you thought the humidity was icky!


  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum
    200 SE 4th St, Abilene, KS 67410
    2.0 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    One of many presidential libraries around the country, this one would be in danger during a nearby nuclear waste spill.


  • Citizen Alert's Las Vegas Office
    1700 Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas NV
    2.3 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    Naturally, we're not happy about it.


  • Cisco Systems' Research Triangle Park Office
    7025 Kit Creek Rd, Morrisville, NC 27560
    2.4 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    This is but one of many
    companies in Research Triangle Park, not to mention prestigious schools such as Duke University. Thousands of some of the world's top researchers and their families live and work in this area, not to mention the billions of dollars invested in the research that goes on there. What a loss that would be if there were to be a major nuclear accident on the highway running through the RTP!

  • New York Stock Exchange
    11 Wall St, New York, NY 10005
    9.7 miles from nearest nuclear waste transport route.
    Far away compared to other locations listed here, although still within 10 miles. Imagine the economic impact if the winds blew the right way after a serious accident.