Monday, December 18, 2006

On Yucca Mountain, Senator Boxer and The Colorado River

Here's a quote from Senator Barbara Boxer about the Yucca Mountain Project that just didn't sound right when I read it. It ran in a story on the Yucca Mountain Project that appeared in the McClatchy Newspapers this morning:

Among Boxer's biggest concerns about Yucca Mountain is that it'’s not as impervious to water as initially thought. Sophisticated testing has shown that water percolates through its caverns and heads toward the Colorado River.

"“Sixteen million Californians drink from that river," Boxer said.
I sent a note to Rod McCollum, one of our NEI staff experts on Yucca Mountain, asking him for some clarification. Here's what he wrote back to me:
With all due respect to the Senator, that statement is incorrect.

The groundwater beneath Yucca Mountain is in an enclosed basin and does not communicate with any rivers or other major sources of drinking water. That was one of the main reasons for selecting the site in the first place. While Death Valley is the ultimate endpoint for flow beneath Yucca, it is important to note that very little if any radiation will actually make it all the way to Death Valley -- and if it does, it will take thousands of years for it to happen.

The EPA standard requires water only 12 miles down gradient from Yucca to be safe to drink with no treatment. It is another 50 miles to Death Valley. The geology along the route further removes radionuclides and the flow is joined by waters that never pass beneath Yucca. This dilutes the radioactive concentration to levels so low they would be very difficult to detect --– even after the many thousands of years it would take to travel that far.

To repeat: Yucca Mountain is absolutely not a threat to the Colorado River. None of the groundwater flowing beneath Yucca Mountain ever reaches the Colorado River watershed.
Thanks to Rod for his quick response. As always, the best background information available on the Yucca Mountain Project is NEI's Yucca Mountain Source Book.

Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Power, Environment, Energy, Politics, Technology, Economics, Yucca Mountain, Used Nuclear Fuel, , ,


Anonymous said...

Well, did someone communicate this to the Senator so that she will be more informed and stop spreading false information?

jas said...

Perhaps the Senator is confusing her nuke sites...that's the same riff she used about Ward Valley, CA a decade ago. That WV was also in a closed basin was a fact largely ignored by the Senator

Anonymous said...

Some clarifications are in order:

1.Yucca is less than 25 miles from the Death Valley National Park boundary.

2. Dillution of radionuclides in groundwater does not prevent harm to people and the environment.

2.It is unknown at this time how quickly radionuclides will travel, or even if Death Valley is the terminus of the Lower Carbonate Aquifer, which underlies the repository. NEI's statements that it will take thousands of years are unverifiable and suspect. What does NEI base these statements on? I know of no reliable study which comes to these conclusions.

3.EPA's standard is measured 18 miles away in Lathrop Wells, NV.(not 12 miles away). Anyone who thinks this standard is safe for people and the environment, I invite you to buy property in Lathrop Wells, NV and see how safe the EPA standard is.

4. Can any statements or claims by NEI on Yucca really have credibility based on its rapid pro-Yucca position?

Whitehall said...

Having known Senator Boxer since her first elected position as county supervisor, I can say that she has never let facts stand in the way of making an anti-nuclear pronouncement.

Why would she start now?