Jim Rogers 
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Re: “Mountain of Doubt

MOUNTAIN OF NUCLEAR POLITICS AND BS March 1, 2009 I’m prompted by your recent article “Mountain Of Doubt”, by Judith Lewis in the February 25 issue of the Weekly to make the following response. In my opinion, as a geologist and that of many geologist who have actually worked on the site, Yucca Mountain as a nuclear repository is most likely the best site in the United States selected by the Department of Energy. This site was chosen over several other sites, one located in Deaf Smith County, Texas and one located at the Hanford reservation in Washington, both with terrible ground water issues. No site is perfect. However, Yucca Mountain has many more positive than negative reasons for a repository. Some are listed: 1. Yucca Mountain is located within the Nevada Test Site reservation, almost 100 miles north of Las Vegas and only miles away from the area where the US tested most of the nuclear weapons developed for military use. It is within both the most secure and already radioactive sites in the United States. Tight security is already in place and will require very little additional infrastructure. In addition the housing and office facilities at Mercury are already in place and were used extensively during the initial construction of the Yucca Mountain facility. Millions of dollars will be saved by using this existing area. Approximately 5-miles of a U-shaped horizontal tunnel, plus numerous side tunnels have already been excavated for testing and scientific studies, in addition for future repository access at the cost of millions of dollars. These are dollars that will not have to be re-spent if the site is selected. How much more money do we need to spend on duplicating already existing research and studies in a new location because some politicians and judges have no idea what the hell they are talking about? 2. The proposed facility is located underground, approximately 1000 feet below the summit of Yucca Mountain and approximately 1000 feet above the regional ground water table. Many mineralogical and other studies have indicated the regional water table has never been at the elevation of the proposed storage area, and the water table has been dropping over many thousands of years. There is geologic evidence that a very small amount of surface water (rainfall) could reach the repository level through existing fractures and joints, however the tunnel is considered a dry repository. Nowhere in the tunnel is there any evidence of visible water. The chances of the regional water table ever rising to the elevation of the repository is so remote within any reasonable time frame that it is not even worth considering. Besides, at the rate Las Vegas is sucking up water, the aquafier will probably be sucked dry before waste ever arrives at the site. 3. Geologically, this site is located in volcanic rock (Rhyolite + other volcanic types) with excellent thermal properties and the ability to rapidly transfer heat away from the containers holding the waste. This is very important, as concentrated heat build-up can cause problems with the storage containers and rock fracture density around the storage area. The thermal regime and rock fracture density was very carefully studied and tested underground. Thermal properties of the rock as well as mineral composition is the reason many other hardrock sites are not deemed suitable for a storage repository, and eliminates many areas located throughout the US. 4. As noted in the article the area is subject to seismic events. This is because the site is located within the Basin and Range area of the western United States. However, the chances of a large magnitude earthquake occurring are much less than California or Utah or even Boise, Idaho. An underground opening (tunnel) located in bedrock does not respond to a seismic event the way movies show. Generally, most people working underground during a seismic event are not even aware the event occurred. I was underground during one earthquake at Yucca Mountain and was not even aware it happened until the end of the shift when those on the surface told us about it. So far as a “igneous disruption” (read volcano eruption) occurring, this can happen almost anywhere in the western United States, and in fact if you live in Oregon, Washington or Idaho there is a greater chance in the next 10,000 years for an eruption to happen from one of our existing volcano’s or Yellowstone than the Nevada Test Site area. The comment by Allison MacFarlane about the site being an “oxidizing environment and that spent nuclear fuel is not stable in the presence of water and oxygen” is ludicrous. Iron, steel, and most other metals are not stable in our environment. Other than in the deep ocean basins, and a few other places, the entire surface of the earth is an oxidizing environment. We humans do quite well in that type of an environment, composed primarily of oxygen and water. Where in the world does he think all the spent fuel and waste we have already created is stored? 5. As much as we would like to, it is totally unrealistic to demand the site be 100% secure from human or other intrusion for 10,000 years, let alone for the half-life of nuclear waste, or as the idiot federal judge stated for perhaps 1 million years. DOE has spent Millions of dollars trying to determine how to secure the site after it has been permanently closed. No one has been able to give a 100% or even a 50% or a 10% guarantee this will happen. The best we can do is backfill the tunnels with the excavated rock, seal the site and provide the best security possible during the time we have control over the area, just as we have been doing since nuclear testing begin at the Nevada Test Site. Some future human, alien or critter would have more to fear from traveling in the radioactive areas a few short miles from Yucca Mountain where we tested nuclear weapons than they would have from the proposed storage area. We couldn’t even predicate the collapse of the economy a year ago. How can any reasonable individual believe we can predicate what will happen 100 or 500 years from now, let alone 10,000 to 1 million years. We need this storage facility now! The money, over 10 billion dollars has already been collected for the site by the federal government from fees charged to the nuclear industry and users of power generated by nuclear energy. To date, the selection and initial work on the site has been paid for the by nuclear industry and cost the taxpayers very little money. Tons of radioactive waste is scatted throughout the country in existing storage facilities, poorly maintained and with minimal security. This waste needs to be collected and disposed of properly. Some of this waste has deteriorated so badly, it may be difficult, if not impossible to even collect and prepare for shipment to a site. Every year that passes makes it more difficult to process into a package that can be safely handled or transported. The President wants to create jobs! What better opportunity to immediately create thousands of high paying jobs, both blue collar and high tech, already for the most part financed by users of nuclear power. Mr. President, eliminate the political BS. By executive order authorize immediately the licensing of this site, put the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and DOE in charge of collecting, preparing the waste for shipment, transporting it to Yucca Mountain and placing it in storage. However, remove the DOE, other than oversight from the actual construction of the repository. Anyone who has worked at this site will tell you that DOE is overloaded with Bureaucracy, BS and people who make their living from multiple studies. They have wasted millions of dollars on duplication and inept contract management. They appear to be more interested in studying this thing to death than doing the actual construction. Instead, my suggestion is turn the construction of the tunnel and infrastructure over to another government agency. This would be the US Bureau of Reclamation. They have the proven expertise, skill and knowledge to build large projects, on time and usually within budget, plus extensive construction and contract management experience, above and below ground, proven over many years. Plus, they have dedicated and motivated employees who can focus on getting the job completed. This site has been studied to death! The positive side of the science and engineering studies far outweigh the negatives. The goal of those opposed to this location is to nit-pick it to death and cause delay. It is not realistic to put the site in another location as no one or state wants it in their back yard. Do we want to or need to waste another 20 years of the same old crap. So lets stop the political BS, put it in the best place we have, using the best engineering and technological practices available now and in the future and move on, meanwhile creating thousands of good paying jobs and making good on a promise the government gave to the nuclear industry many years ago when they begin taxing the industry for construction of a secure and safe storage facility. The only other nuclear waste disposal site we have is located in Carlsbad, New Mexico, located underground in a geologic salt dome. It is not designed to accept high level waste, nor is there adequate space for the existing high level waste, let alone future waste. James Rogers Although I do not consider myself an expert on Yucca Mountain, I did spend almost 2-years working there as a geologist. A member of a geologic team employed by the US Bureau of Reclamation mapping underground geology during the initial 5-mile tunnel construction phase.. Prior to that, in the early 1960’s I participated as a member of the US Army at the Nevada Test Site in both above and below ground testing of nuclear weapons, so I believe I have some knowledge of the area. I am a registered professional geologist in the State of Idaho.

Posted by Jim Rogers on 03/02/2009 at 7:08 PM

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