Indigenous Peoples: Background
Nuclear dumping: Yucca Mountain
Also on the traditional land of the Western Shoshone are plans for opening a nuclear waste repository. The waste would be stored in tunnels under Yucca Mountain. In the 1980’s the Department of Energy began identifying possible states and locations to permanently store high-level nuclear waste, and in 1987 chose to continue evaluating only Yucca Mountain as the potential site.
The waste would be stored underground in secure containers for the next 10,000 years. This is how long the Department of Energy deems the waste would take to no longer be dangerous, even though some of the radioactive chemicals have half lives longer than this time period. The plan is full of potential risks and dangers. First it would be impossible to know if the containers holding the nuclear waste would be able to withstand the corrosive radioactive chemicals and erosion from water and other elements for 10,000 years. In the very possible case that there would be nuclear leaking, contaminants could enter the water table in as little as 50 years. Yucca Mountain is also located on a 3 million year-old volcanic ridge; there are 39 earthquake faults and 7 young volcanoes in the surrounding area, which threatens the stability of the repository . In fact Nevada is ranked third in the nation for current seismic activity . To transport the 77,000 tons of nuclear waste across country to Yucca Mountain the Department of Energy plans to use trains, barges and truck. The nuclear waste would travel across the country and through major cities, some even passing straight through city centres. Due to existing transportation routes, it’s predicted that 85% of the waste would pass through Las Vegas on its way to Yucca Mountain . The DOE plans state that 22,000 shipments would be by rail and truck and 3,000 by barge over the course of 38 years, averaging 658 shipments a year and nearly two trucks carrying radioactive waste passing through Nevada everyday. There is a serious risk for an accident to happen when transporting the waste, or for carriers to be targeted by terrorists. Any amount of spillage would be a disaster .
The timeline for the completion of the Yucca Mountain repository has been consistently pushed back due to political, financial and legal obstacles. The projected date to begin accepting waste is March of 2017 . The Yucca nuclear dump would affect not only the Western Shoshone people to whom the land should belong, but the entire country’s population and the future population for a period longer than the history of human existence. It is therefore necessary to fight against the dangerous plan for Yucca Mountain and end it entirely to ensure the safety of current and future generations.
Friends of the Earth