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Debate: Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository

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Is storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain a good idea?

Background and context

Yucca Mountain is a mountain in Nevada. It was the proposed site for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository from 1987 to 2009. Debate continues as to whether nuclear energy is worth the waste that it produces, whether Yucca mountain would be a suitable location for such waste, and whether the potential hazards to public safety and health are significant enough to hold up using a form of energy that emits no greenhouse gases in the process of producing energy.

Contents

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Is "permanent" underground nuclear waste repository a must for nuclear energy utilization?

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Pro


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Con

  • New types of reactors may use current waste as valuable fuel. New types of nuclear reactors, namely breeder reactors such as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor may utilize what is currently considered waste as its fuels, producing a much shorter-lived nuclear waste, in turn rendering Yucca Mountain needless. See e.g. Debate: Thorium based nuclear energy for more details.
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Legal liability: Is canceling Yucca a legal liability?

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Pro

  • Canceling Yucca Mountain facility is a legal liability. If the U.S. Government cancels the license for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, it will likely constitute a full "breach of contract", potentially costing around 1 billion dollars. Courts have already awarded over 1 billion dollars to to utility companies. Nuclear power consumers have already paid around 29 billion dollars for into the Yucca Mountain Construction fund.


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Con

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Nuclear energy: Is nuclear energy important? Is Yucca a reasonable price to pay?

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Pro

  • Nuclear needed to replace hydrocarbons; Yucca justified as such There is a major need for emissions-free alternatives to fossil fuels, both due to climate change, and due to the depletion of fossil fuel resources. Nuclear is the most viable of these alternatives currently. Yucca mountain, and the concerns surrounding it, is a small price to pay for these enormous benefits.
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Con

  • Nuclear waste should not be created in the first place. Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste expert at the environmental group Beyond Nuclear, "is that we should not be creating this material to begin with."[1]
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Safety: Is storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain tolerably safe?

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Pro

  • Transport is safe: The U.S. has been transporting high level radioactive waste for at least 45 years, with no fatalities or serious accidents. There have only been 9 accidents. The worst only released a minimal amount of radioactive waste. The safety record for nuclear waste transportation is excellent.
  • Yucca Mountain is much safer than the status quo of nuclear storage. "Editorial: Mountain of Trouble." Washington Post. March 8, 2009: "Our longstanding support of the Yucca Mountain facility has been grounded in the belief that the center of a desert mountain 1,000 feet underground and more than 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas was an appropriate place for the nation's nuclear waste. Instead, storage is spread over 121 above-ground sites located within 75 miles of more than 161 million people in 39 states."
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Con

  • The transportation of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain entails risks. Transporting nuclear waste hundreds and even thousands of miles across the country to a single nuclear waste storage facility entails significant risks. Train crashes or other accidents during the transportation of the waste could realize significant quantities of radiation into the surrounding environment and communities.


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Fossil fuel dependence: Does Yucca and nuclear help reduce foreign oil dependencies?

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Pro

  • Nuclear power and Yucca can decrease dependence on foreign oil. Stopping Yucca Mountain would make us more dependable on fossil fuels, rather than paving the way for new nuclear developments.



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Con

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Pro/con sources

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See also

External links and resources

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