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[cdn-nucl-l] Volcanic zone threatens Yucca
Posted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on August 1, 2002 and at:
See more details of the document at the American Geophysical Union at:
Volcanic zone threatens planned nuclear facility
Officials say molten rock hitting Yucca repository remote
Jeff Nesmith - Cox Washington Bureau
Thursday, August 1, 2002
Washington --- A volcanic eruption beneath Nevada's Yucca Mountain could
cause rivers of molten rock to explode inside tunnels where the
government plans to store nuclear waste for thousands of years, a team
of scientists said Wednesday.
The mountain is in an active earthquake zone and an area of active
volcanism. There are six small volcanoes within 12 miles of Yucca
Government officials regard the likelihood that molten rock would spew
upward into Yucca Mountain and actually hit the planned nuclear waste
repository inside it as extremely remote --- on the order of seven
chances in 100 million for any given year.
And even if such an event were to occur, it would be next to impossible
for it to take place in the way the team of geologists, mathematicians
and other scientists suggested, said the chief scientist for the Energy
Department's Yucca Mountain Project.
But in a scenario that seemed plucked from a horror film, scientists
from the United States and two other countries describe waste canisters
being torn open under the stress of enormous heat, shock waves and
rushing rivers of molten rock, or magma.
After only a few hours, they said, the volcanic eruption could fracture
the all-rock mountain, allowing radioactive material to escape.
They described the what-if scenario in an article in the Geophysical
Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.
''The assessments suggest a greater number of waste packages may be
adversely affected than previously recognized,'' they wrote.
President Bush signed a bill last week that adopted Yucca Mountain as
the nation's repository for spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants.
The action came after the House and Senate voted to override a ''veto''
of the Yucca Mountain site by Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Authors of the paper included scientists from Cambridge University and
the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, the University of
Twente in the Netherlands and the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory
Analysis at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
''I'm aware of the Department of Energy's views on this work, but I
believe our document speaks for itself,'' Brittain E. Hill of the San
Antonio institute said Wednesday. ''It was put through a very rigorous
''We've been aware of this paper for about a year,'' Michael Voegele,
the Yucca Mountain Project chief scientist, said Wednesday, ''and we
take it seriously.''
Authors of the paper acknowledged they used simplified assumptions for
the scenario and urged further study.
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