Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nuclear Transportion and the Yucca Mountain Repository

Here are the conclusions from my individual research paper. Enjoy

A solution for the long-term disposal of high-level radioactive waste continues to be a hotly debated topic. The current projected method of deep burial in the Yucca Mountain would have dramatic impacts to U.S. nuclear waste transportation. A substantial increase in cross-country shipments of spent nuclear fuel would significantly raise the risk exposure of radioactive waste accidents to Americans and the environment. Accordingly, significant levels of political opposition to the proposed plan continue to retard the implementation of a long-term solution. Proponents for the Yucca facility argue that opposition to the plan is based merely on Not-In-My-Backyard politics, rather than scientific assessments. Alternatively, opponents point to scientific studies that indicate an inordinate amount of risk associated with frequent long distance transportation of nuclear waste.

While my paper does not attempt to assess the scientific feasibility of Yucca Mountain, the risks, financial concerns, and politics associated with transportation of spent nuclear fuel is addressed. Under this framework the following recommendations are given:

Thorough assessment of the effects of severe accidents and acts of sabotage/terrorism on the performance of the shipping containers – The global political climate has changed since 9/11. Under this reality a more thorough risk assessment of the ability of shipping containers to perform under a security breach needs to be made.

Assessment of the risk exposure to urban areas – The implementation of a central repository would heavily rely on the nation’s rail system to deliver the nuclear waste thus exposing U.S. urban areas and its residents to potential dangers of radioactive waste. A similar study to that made by The State of Nevada of the SNF transportation risks to Las Vegas needs to be made for all U.S. urban areas potentially affected.

Reevaluation of the financial and budgetary issues – Given continued political opposition, project delays, and public backlash experienced in Europe, the DOE should revise its project budget to consider these possible/likely effects. Additionally, the DOE should consider the drop in property values and ensuing lawsuits that will likely occur once a transportation route structure is agreed upon.

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