Storage of nuclear waste in Nevada risky, panel says

Saturday, January 26, 2002

WASHINGTON -- A panel of scientists says the Energy Department's plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada is fraught with uncertainties.

Indeed, the scientists say, no matter where the waste is put, it will be impossible to avoid unexpected problems over the more than 10,000 years the material will be radioactive.

The findings of the oversight board come as the White House prepares to give the go-ahead for the Yucca Mountain waste project in Nevada. The Energy Department signed off on the site earlier this month.

The scientists emphasized in a letter sent to congressional leaders and the department that they were making no judgment on whether Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, should be designated for long-term burial of 77,000 tons of nuclear waste.

The panel acknowledged that it had found no single issue "that would automatically eliminate" Yucca Mountain as a waste repository. But the 11-member board said the Energy Department's analysis of the facility depends largely on computer models that try to predict performance thousands of years in the future.

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