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.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:
"Sixteen million Californians drink from that river," Boxer said.
With all due respect to the Senator, that statement is incorrect.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.
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.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Power, Environment, Energy, Politics, Technology, Economics, Yucca Mountain, Used Nuclear Fuel, California, Nevada, Senator Barbara Boxer