Substantial amounts of highly toxic nuclear waste are stockpiled in pools and casks at power plants across the United States (and the world) but we have no good way to dispose of it in a way that guarantees long-term protection for our population or our environment. High-level nuclear waste especially, which is a classification for the most radioactive type of nuclear waste, has no long-term storage destination or even a general consensus on how or where to store this extremely hazardous product.
While much of the discussion on how to store this high-level nuclear waste happens on the national level, that doesn’t mean it won’t impact Utah. We monitor the national discussion about what to do with high-level waste, consult with other organizations about their efforts to develop better (i.e. “least worst”) solutions, and, when necessary, bring any proposals that may impact Utah to the attention of the public and our lawmakers in order to protect Utah from being exposed to this waste that Utahns don’t create or benefit from.
Yucca Mountain is one proposed deep geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste. The proposal has existed for over thirty years, first appearing in 1987 when Congress was looking for a national storage site for high-level waste. In the process of finding this site, Congress bypassed the scientific process used to identify the most suitable deep geologic sites (which is based on their hydrologic and seismic properties) and instead selected Yucca Mountain, Nevada for various political and economic reasons as the single storage site for the nation’s high-level waste. Since then, there have been many obstacles that have prevented the issuing of a license to operate a storage facility at Yucca Mountain, but the project has recently been revived with the possibility of new licensing and funding federal legislation.
There are serious concerns surrounding the Yucca Mountain project. Beyond the questionable suitability of Yucca Mountain to successfully store this waste (it is too seismically active and too wet), we would see 10,000 train and truck shipments of the world’s most toxic substance roll through Utah regularly over several decades. In the proposal, these shipments would come right through Ogden, Salt Lake, and Provo before cruising along the Wasatch Front, down the I-15, and through St. George.
The bill that would allow Yucca Mountain to move forward will most likely be considered in the late fall of 2018. We are currently watching what’s happening nationally and discussing other realistic storage options that would not bring 10,000 trucks and trains of high-level waste through our backyards.
Learn more about Yucca Mountain and our work here.