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The "Scientization" of Yucca Mountain 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-block-for-science dept.
Harperdog writes "This is a nice piece by Dawn Stover on how science has had little to do with the choice, and blockage of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. This article doesn't go where you think it will; it isn't too long but is a thorough exploration of the process. Here's a quote: 'Government officials are often guilty of politicizing science. Egged on by business or religious interests, they cast doubt on the scientific evidence for a connection between tobacco and lung cancer, or between fossil fuels and climate change, or even between humans and our primate ancestors. Some scientific findings are suppressed, while others are manipulated or distorted beyond recognition. But in the case of Yucca Mountain, the reverse happened: Government officials "scientized" politics. They made decisions that were largely political but cloaked them in the garb of science.'"
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The "Scientization" of Yucca Mountain

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  • Wha? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @04:52PM (#37695338) Homepage
    How is that not exactly the same thing? In either case, you're manipulating or misrepresenting scientific data in order to achieve political goals.
    • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:00PM (#37695428) Homepage Journal

      Yep, you are exactly correct. Making up fake science, or using it selectively is politicization in true form. Scientization would be taking a politically contentious topic and limiting its policy to what is determined to be most effective by the scientific method. Luckily we already have that to some extent in the field of medicine, but we could do with more.

      • It's almost completely disappointing that someone thought this was a novel or fascinating enough point to base a paper on. Even (mature) creationists claim to be "on the side of" the scientific method, they simply reject particular theories by claiming them to be unscientific, and then invoke the same old appeal to authority.

        I mourn the day when the average scientist was someone with a clear grasp of the world outside of the tangibles and theoreticals of their chosen specialization. This "scientization"
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Luckily we already have that to some extent in the field of medicine, but we could do with more.

        Do you mean like a full study of the effectiveness of specific medical treatments and the probabilities of success and such, so that each member of society will have only the most likely to succeed and best rate-of-return procedures paid for?

        Or like as soon as a scientific study shows that something is bad for people (like eating too much ice cream) it is made illegal?

        Politics and government shouldn't be about enforcing scientific results, it needs to take into account people and their odd quirks, like a

        • You don't have to enforce scientific results; they have a tendency to do that by themselves.

          Did you realise that scientific studies have shown that eating ice-cream (and other "bad" foods) can have the positive effect of reducing stress levels and (in moderation) actually be beneficial to your health?

          Dragging myself back on topic, how do you think the FDA and friends decide which drugs to make legal for over-the-counter sales, which should require a prescription, and which should be outright banned? If you

          • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @06:32PM (#37696344) Journal

            You don't have to enforce scientific results; they have a tendency to do that by themselves.

            No, they don't.

            You have to keep testing them and showing the results. Because the people on the other side will keep repeating the same lie over and over, and inventing new lies, and putting them out in every new medium, making them look like the current state of human knowledge, while the facts you thought were enforcing themselves are gathering dust in a journal on the back shelf of a library nobody visits any more.

            Science isn't animate. People have to sell the truth at least as hard as other people sell the lies.

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            You don't have to enforce scientific results; they have a tendency to do that by themselves.

            No, they don't. There is nothing coming out of a scientific study of the effects of, say, tobacco, that prevents anyone from smoking. If that were true, nobody would be smoking today. They'd all have been prevented from doing so by the scientific studies that tell them it is bad for them.

            To get the enforcement, you need laws and someone who comes arrest you if you break them. Laws come from politicians.

            It would be a BAD thing if scientific studies resulted in laws without any concern for anything else, l

          • how do you think the FDA and friends decide which drugs to make legal for over-the-counter sales, which should require a prescription, and which should be outright banned? If you answered "with science" you'd be partially correct!

            Very partial. Like, you get 3/10, maybe even less. Just studying the case of the FDA's cooperation with Big Pharma on red yeast rice leaves you with a whole new appreciation about the real purpose of the FDA.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Or like as soon as a scientific study shows that something is bad for people (like eating too much ice cream) it is made illegal?

          That's either pure politics again or it's politics creating bad science. Science may tell us that something is bad for us. An enlightened policy will make sure people know of the result and how well proven (or not) it is and urge us to do the right thing.

          I understand your skepticism though, when it comes to nutrition and health there's a lot of bad science and weak results being quacked about all over the place. Much of it is the natural result of political PHB types trying to look smart while they boss peo

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            That's either pure politics again or it's politics creating bad science.

            What? A scientific study that tells us that ice cream is bad for these specific reasons is POLITICS? No, it's a scientific study. I didn't say it was a biased or faulty scientific study.

            Science may tell us that something is bad for us.

            That's what I just said.

            An enlightened policy will make sure people know of the result and how well proven (or not) it is and urge us to do the right thing.

            And that "enlightened policy" is exactly what I'm talking about being necessary instead of just "science". The "enlightened policy" looks at more than just the scientific study, it looks at all the other issues involved.

            I understand your skepticism though,

            No, clearly you do not, because I am not talking about taking a skeptical vie

            • by sjames (1099)

              The politics is translating a single study saying over X amount = bad for you into a blanket ban before it even gets peer reviewed. Science doesn't ban, politicians do.

              The more likely case though is when the political process conspires to make sure grants go to researchers that get the "right" answers and then those answers are used as an excuse to do something to benefit a big campaign contributor. Or, in the case of a bureaucrat, the "right" answer is the one that backs their push for a bigger budget.

              The

            • by scheme (19778)

              Newton's laws of motion are pretty well defined and accepted. Momentum increases as the square of the velocity. You'd have to be really outside the norm to think otherwise. So, applying that science to automotive policy, speed limits should be as low as possible. Five MPH at most. Double that limit to ten and you've multiplied the momentum by 4 and the amount of damage by the same. Maybe even 5MPH is too much!

              Newton's laws of motion don't discuss momentum at all. Also momentum does not increase as the square of velocity, in newtonian mechanics, p=mv so momentum increases proportionally to velocity. Kinetic energy increases as the square of velocity (k=.5*mv^2). But even that doesn't really determine how bad an accident is since you need to know how elastic the collusion is and the impulse since those tend to be better indicators of the severity.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Luckily we already have that to some extent in the field of medicine

        You need to specify your country. USA, people will laugh at you or think you're trolling. Canada, eh, ya maybe so, maybe so.

      • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by demonbug (309515) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:48PM (#37695914) Journal

        Yep, you are exactly correct. Making up fake science, or using it selectively is politicization in true form. Scientization would be taking a politically contentious topic and limiting its policy to what is determined to be most effective by the scientific method. Luckily we already have that to some extent in the field of medicine, but we could do with more.

        The problem with science is that it rarely gives black and white answers to complicated questions, so your results often depend a lot more on what you ask than the actual science behind the answer. Yucca Mountain has been extensively studied, and there is ample scientific evidence to argue both for and against a nuclear waste repository there - the answer depends entirely on how much risk you are willing to accept. Choosing an acceptable risk level is almost purely political in nature, and can change with the political tide. Looking at the acceptable risk when the project started, the scientific investigations conducted since then suggest that Yucca is probably an appropriate place to store waste. Looking at the acceptable risk now, with a more politically powerful Nevada that fought to decrease the acceptable risk level, the scientific evidence suggests that Yucca is not feasible. The science hasn't changed (well, actually it has quite a bit since the beginning of the project, but that isn't really relevant here), it isn't being used selectively, the thing that has changed is the politically-determined acceptable risk. It is quite valid to say that the science doesn't support building a waste repository at Yucca - the science doesn't support it (at a given acceptable risk level).

        The thing that is problematic about this is that the politicians increasingly use this to hide the political decision. They focus on saying that the science doesn't (or does) support X or Y, when really they should be saying that the science doesn't support it at our chosen risk criteria. They do their best to avoid discussion of the risk criteria, which is what the political discussion should be about.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          " scientific evidence to argue both for and against a nuclear waste repository there "
          false. The evidence shows it's reasonably safe. The opposition keeps making up strawmen to make it seem like the data was gather incorrectly.

          • " scientific evidence to argue both for and against a nuclear waste repository there "
            false. The evidence shows it's reasonably safe. The opposition keeps making up strawmen to make it seem like the data was gather incorrectly.

            You just agreed with demonbug. "Reasonable" is a word that can be used to push both sides of the argument. Reasonably safe also means reasonably unsafe - it depends on your acceptance of risk.

            The exact arguments can be made for most medical procedures, especially screening tests, like the current controversy surrounding prostate and breast cancer screening. In fact, if you took demonbug's paragraph, substituted PSA, prostate cancer and urologists in the appropriate places, you would have a pretty good exp

            • by khallow (566160)
              I disagree. Dismissing contrary research (I don't know whether that has happened in this case or not) is beyond merely changing your risk criteria. It introduces bias. That means that the decision can become completely unhinged from the actual risk, even if the decider superficially is doing so solely on the basis of a (biased) risk evaluation.
    • The author is simply an idiot. It might be true the DoE should've considered multiple sites though.

      • The author gets to the thought that the community has to support nuclear waste disposal. Dealing with the waste is something we all have to do together. But, we can avoid imposing on any community by just not creating the waste in the first place. End nuclear power and the problem stops getting worse.
    • by vadim_t (324782)

      I suppose it's a matter of perspective.

      I think the idea is that in politization you bring up arguments like "but what about the economy?", trying to distract people from reality with emotional arguments.

      In "scientization" you do the contrary: you bring up scientific sounding arguments, trying to distract people from the real political motivations.

      In the end it comes down to the same thing, it's just that the angle is different. In one you emphasize politics, in the other you attempt to present a facade of r

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      It is different because in one case they are saying that "Science is wrong/doesn't exist - therefore we should...." and here where there is nothing that can be labelled as a Religion Vs Science issue (meaning they can't throw the creationist/denialist line) they simply jibber jabber, lie and cover up actual science to further their own agenda.

      While it isn't totally different, I agree, it actually shows them as being much more hypocritical.

      If a politician was truly a creationist, in some way (though I would

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      My thoughts exactly.

    • by spads (1095039)
      Yes. This is not scientization of anything. This is just lying about the scientific findings, saying the science said no, when the science said yes. If anything, the descientization.

      I guess the (journalistic method) more remarkable the revelation, the less closely you are supposed to examine it.

      Discovery: "My goodness, we've discovered birds flying upside down under water!"
      Appropriate response: "Hmmm, remarkable!"
    • I think the difference is between whether science is the target or the tool. In most cases, political goals trump scientific reality: science is the target, politics the tool. In this case, a political goal was furthered by using science as a positive beacon of trusted authority: science is the tool, politics the target. Its a fairly remarkable (though not by any means new) thing, given the increasingly hostile-to-science political landscape in the US.
    • by mcguiver (898268)
      One of the problems with Yucca Mountain is that the government is doing so much research that you are bound to find scientists who disagree with the majority of the findings and are always raising concerns. The public gets wind of these concerns and refuses to allow Yucca Mountain to progress until the concerns are addressed. Said scientists gets another grant, does more research, finds another "problem", and the cycle continues. There is research done regarding Yucca Mountain the flies in the face of ou
  • well, I knew someone who was doing research on table rocks in the area, to guesstimate how long those rocks had been teetering on their pedestals, with the hypothesis that a significant earthquake would have knocked them off...

    As I recall, their research indicated that of the ones they'd checked, they'd probably been on their pedestals for a few thousand years, at least...

  • > Government officials "scientized" politics. They made decisions that were largely political but cloaked them in the garb of science.'"

    One could argue that this has happened often, in many fields. What's new here?

    • It isn't really confined to science, or even as new (relatively) as science is.

      Whenever you make a political decision, it is helpful to have reasons that don't make you look quite as crass and calculating. Certain reasons are as old as the hills(defending Us vs. Them, preventing the decline of Morality, etc.) others change according to the prevailing epistemology of the time. In theistic societies, your political decision is couched as being the one that makes god happy. In technological ones(it's hard t
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by vlm (69642)

      > Government officials "scientized" politics. They made decisions that were largely political but cloaked them in the garb of science.'"

      One could argue that this has happened often, in many fields. What's new here?

      Wait till she discovers the psuedoscience of economics... if yucca mountain got her wound up into writing an article, Keynesian economics might literally make her head explode.

      Another good one is climate science.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      Obama's looking worse and worse with every day that passes.

      • Obama's looking worse and worse with every day that passes.

        What would Romney do?

        Really, while I am profoundly disappointed in Obama's tenure, I doubt a Republican president would have done anything different. Even Ron Paul would do the same.

        • by blair1q (305137)

          http://www.thepeoplesview.net/2011/09/so-that-ignorance-wont-be-reason-why.html [thepeoplesview.net]

          "Obama hasn't done anything right" is a canard. Stop falling for right-wing propaganda.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          > What would Romney do?

          > Really, while I am profoundly disappointed in Obama's tenure, I doubt a Republican president would have done anything different. Even Ron Paul would do the same.

          To a major extent I can agree with that. As a fiscal conservative, I am profoundly glad that McCain didn't win, because he'd have done the same things as Obama, only with Republican support. I think the damage Obama has done has been minimized in part because of party opposition. (Ideologically, I don't belong to eit

  • The vast majority of that waste is still capable of producing useful energy. If it was reprocessed there'd be a lot less that needs to be stored.

    • by vlm (69642)

      The vast majority of that waste is still capable of producing useful energy. If it was reprocessed there'd be a lot less that needs to be stored.

      Correct engineering, wrong politics.

      The problem is the folks who would be hired to reprocess are so incredibly crooked and such political backstabbers that we would literally have less pollution if we just tossed it all off the end of a pier into the ocean, or heck, if we just ground it up and sprinkled it on our breakfast cereal. For "national security" we can't have anyone reporting on stuff being dumped out on the ground, not can we?

      I don't think the French or Japanese are as corrupt as the Americans, o

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      The vast majority of the waste is not capable of producing energy. The majority of the volume of waste is stuff like office furnishings from nuclear plants and other things that had long-term exposure and registers above background levels. Yes, the spend fuel can be reprocessed, but the majority of the volume would be just fine in a landfill (so long as they didn't build a school on top of the landfill - don't laugh, I've seen it happen multiple times). Much of it isn't even "radioactive" from a lay-pers
      • by sjames (1099)

        That waste is more political than actual. It's not properly "nuclear waste" it's stuff that should go up on ebay. It's just more "political waste".

        Of the actual waste, the stuff that lasts thousands of years is otherwise known as valuable fuel. The remainder is much more manageable even if it isn't practical to refine out useful isotopes like Co60 for medical and industrial apps.

    • There's a lot of myths surrounding nuclear recycling.
      Firstly, only the plutonium can be recycled, which accounts for less than 1% of the spent fuel rod. Most of the waste is uranium and contaminated with gamma emiting isotopes uranium 232 and uranium 234 and too dangerous to handle.
      Secondly, recycling fuel doesn't make the waste "disappear". MOX fuel is converted to mostly to isotopes of plutonium after been burnt in the reactor and can't be recycled again.
      Thirdly, producing MOX fuel is an expensive and dir

      • There's more than one way to reprocess.

        My preferred solution would be to convert the spent fuel rods into a liquid form suitable for use in a molten salt reactor.

        • by edxwelch (600979)

          > My preferred solution would be to convert the spent fuel rods into a liquid form suitable for use in a molten salt reactor.
          Only problem is that they don't exist

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:02PM (#37695440) Homepage Journal

    is that people have no clue what nuclear waste is, what it looks like, or how it's stored. Yucca Mtn. is a fine place for nuclear waste. Nuclear waste that should be used in modern nuclear plants as fuel, BTW,

    • yeah... I guess its just enourmous happy coincidence then... because Yucca was only chosen because the central storage idea was a hot potato... no one wants the waste. Yucca was the only location left after the nimby's said what they say. Yucca, and the whole plan, is bullshit. And then they crafted the science to suit their needs. And then the pro-nukers jumped on board the tiny little boat of an idea this was. Shame on the pro-nukers! They have enough wits to have seen that Yucca was sort of a sacrificial
    • by dbIII (701233)
      Only if "modern" means "doesn't exist in any from yet" and if you ignore all but a very small subset of the waste. I think even Wikipedia has an entry on reprocessing that the above poster and anyone that chances across this should look at before believing in magic. Learn that reprocessing is designed to be a fuel solution and not a waste solution - at the end of it you end up with a lot more waste from contamination. It's only been spun (ie. blatant lie) as a waste solution by slippery people in politic
  • by swan5566 (1771176) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:02PM (#37695442)
    Never mention the words "intelligent design" if you ever plan on getting tenure at a public university. I'm not talking about supporting it, I'm talking about even seriously investigating it at all. Then there's all the politics involved for each discipline for publishing in journals. Hardly scientific.
    • by Oh Gawwd Peak Oil (1000227) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:07PM (#37695472)
      Exactly. Just like if you mention you are "seriously investigating" the possiblity that 2 + 2 = 5, you probably won't get tenure either. They will think you are a crackpot. And justifiably so. Intelligent Design is similar.
    • by Misanthrope (49269) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:09PM (#37695500)

      You can't seriously investigate intelligent design, it's not science. Any sane university should run anyone who thinks it is out on a rail.

      • by vlm (69642)

        You can't seriously investigate intelligent design, it's not science. Any sane university should run anyone who thinks it is out on a rail.

        Sociological madness of crowds study, pathological delusional psychology, computer assisted statistical historical analysis ... Which brings out the haters that the soft sciences are not really science, blah blah blah whatever.

        Domesticated livestock and food crops have been intelligently designed by farmers over the past few centuries. Are there measurable numerical long term genetic effects of intelligent design actions, which I'm predicting would show up in modern Holsteins but not modern Humans?

        • Domesticated livestock and food crops have been intelligently designed by farmers over the past few centuries. Are there measurable numerical long term genetic effects of intelligent design actions, which I'm predicting would show up in modern Holsteins but not modern Humans?

          That's actually a reasonable question, and speaking as someone who's worked on both cow and human genetics, I'll say: no, probably not. A comparitive analysis of the genomes of various breeds of domestic cattle certainly shows selective pressure toward certain phenotypes (milk production in some breeds, meat production in others, etc.) but the only way to say that selection has beeen "intelligent" is to know the history -- which, in the case of cattle, of course we do. We see similar pressures in compari

          • by Forbman (794277)

            I'd say that dog breeding is probably a better area than livestock. At least with livestock, we generally eat or get rid of the bad ones, and not too many lines with otherwise powerfully expressed, good traits have some really negative traits that come along in their offspring (wikipedia mentions a couple of holstein bull lines that have one, quarterhorses have a couple of lines with a very bad inherited skin disorder, etc).

            With dogs, however, there are negative traits in some popular breeds that have come

        • You're misrepresenting intelligent design, I suspect delibrately and knowingly

          What you're describing is actually evolution. It's called selective breeding, and while it's true that there's an intelligence behind the selection, there's still an evolutionary pressure at work. Dogs don't really develop into adults... they stay puppy-like their whole life because people like that.

          But that's not what intelligent design is about at all. Intelligent design suggests that things like eyes or other complex features a

      • Intelligent Design basically looks at things and gives a positive answer to teleology. Darwinism looks at things and gives a negative answer.

        If Intelligent Design isn't science, neither is Darwinism because they are just the opposing sides of the same question.

        Frankly, many Intelligent Design proponents believe in evolution and common descent, which won't be considered. As another posted, I doubt very seriously Intelligent Design will be accurately represented.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Never mention the words "intelligent design" if you ever plan on getting tenure at a public university

      Funny, people get all sorts of grants to hit amino acids with lightning and to make artificial life forms.

      Oh wait, that's not what you were talking about, huh?

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:16PM (#37695572)
      From an academic's perspective, UFO investigation is more reputable than ID masturbation. There has never even been a single argument for ID that wasn't circular. "Irreducibly complex" is a red herring invented by ID to mean "we don't understand it, which is proof we can never understand it" which is provably false, as our understanding continually expands.

      ID *should* be a kiss of death to university tenure because it is inherently anti-academic.
      • by gilleain (1310105)

        There has never even been a single argument for ID that wasn't circular. "Irreducibly complex" is a red herring invented by ID to mean "we don't understand it, which is proof we can never understand it" which is provably false, as our understanding continually expands.

        Well, I would generally agree. You could maybe test if you could 'reduce' protein-protein interaction networks (or gene networks) by graph edit operations. There was a talk about that today at work, and it seems like you can replace subgraphs in a network with smaller subgraphs and still have the same logical result. If you can generate a series of functional networks that increase in complexity through time, then that's proof against ID

        Then again, this kind of research is simply called "genetics" or bioinf

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          If you can generate a series of functional networks that increase in complexity through time, then that's proof against ID

          There is no "proof against ID. The best you can do is prove all their current claims false. After that, they'll come up with new claims. Remember ID is the opposite of science. They took an answer they believed to be an irrefutable truth, and are attempting to find supporting evidence (ignoring all other facts). Science is taking observations and trying to describe the truth that leads to those facts (through experiments). Irreducible complexity has already been proven wrong. But it's still an ID arg

      • "Irreducibly complex" is a red herring invented by ID to mean "we don't understand it, which is proof we can never understand it" which is provably false, as our understanding continually expands.

        I see you don't understand the concept of irreducible complexity at all. Most of the structures that are claimed as irreducibly complex are well understood. The idea is that if you can find a structure in which certain formations couldn't have developed without the present of other formations which also relied on the first, then you've identified a structure which couldn't have plausibly evolved - it's like finding a circular dependency, and it is a logical argument.

        Of course, the fact is that we've been ab

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          I see you don't understand the concept of irreducible complexity at all.

          Given that I said nothing about it, how did you manage to come to that conclusion? Was it that you decided you didn't like my conclusion, so you made up lies about what I do and don't understand. Not to mention that the manner in which "irreducibly complex" is invoked, in my experience, is as a Chewbacca defense, not as a well formed platform for discussion. "An eye without a lens or without rods and cones would be useless, thus God Must Exist (and designed us)."

          If you look at a candidate for irreducible and complexity, and respond with "well we just don't know how it evolved yet", then you are begging the question, and it is you being illogical.

          I've done no such thing. I've said nothin

          • Given that I said nothing about it

            "Irreducibly complex" is a red herring invented by ID to mean "we don't understand it, which is proof we can never understand it"

            You most definitely said something about it.

            "An eye without a lens or without rods and cones would be useless, thus God Must Exist (and designed us)." is a misrepresentation, and a fairly obviously facetious one at that. The argument would more properly run "An eye without a lens or without rods and cones would be useless, thus it could not have evolved one component at a time, thus there must be another mechanism for its existence." Even if irreducible complexity were demonstrated by the evidence, it would

            • by AK Marc (707885)

              Even if irreducible complexity were demonstrated by the evidence, it wouldn't say anything about the existence of God, or the lack thereof.

              Have you ever had this discussion with a *real* believer in ID? Their logic *always* ends with "if you can't prove evolution 100%, then you proved God exists." ID is a thelogical exercise to counter science, and is inherently anti-science. We can't even prove gravity to 100%, so gravity must be an illusion created by God and doesn't actually exist.

              And you seem like a "new atheist" Dawkins-worshipper - preferring to vilify your opponents with rhetoric rather than actually debate them.

              And what do you call people who avoid the subject and attack the speaker when they are on the other side? Because you did the same to me that you condemned.

              • Have you ever had this discussion with a *real* believer in ID?

                And now you're creating a false dichotomy with an artificial distinction of a "real" believer, who behaves in all the ways you want to condemn. Have you ever had this dicussion with a *true* Scotsman?

                • by AK Marc (707885)
                  And with that, you avoided every question I asked of you. Do you believe in ID? Or do you believe in it, but you know it's stupid, so you refuse to publicly admit to it? After all, why else would you have tiptoed around the question multiple times?
                  • Why? What possibly impact do my beliefs have on my argument? If my argument is logical, it should stand on its own, regardless of what I believe. Contrariwise if it doesn't.

                    For someone whose accusing others of changing the topic, you're fairly insistent at changing it away from the topic at hand, to my beliefs.

      • Well, not talking about ID, which is a specific idea with an agenda, but many legitamate scientists have come to the belief that some things are just too ... perfect. Some observable things are just... too beautiful NOT to have been ... conceived. The trend has been lightly documented... The New Story of Science [amazon.com] is just one of a number of books concerning these non-scientific ideas popping up in popular science... that sort of documents how some scientists moved from atheism to agnosticism. The book is ab
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Look at your knees. They are stupid and weak. They only make sense if we used to be quadrapeds (and even then weren't that good).

          Some observable things are just... too beautiful NOT to have been ... conceived

          snowflakes are beautiful, however, thinking that God personally assembles all snowflakes seems sillly. And they are "conceived". Nature is a driving force, the graceful fall into entropy, like a star getting sucked into a black hole, is pretty, but not "designed." Just because it wasn't conceived doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. Or that Nature, with no intelligence or sou

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      How could one possibly study intelligent design? ID is an untestable hypothesis. You can't know God unless he wants you to know him. ID and creationism aren't science, and unless something earth-shaking happens, never can be.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      and never mention search for bigfoot, or green men from mars. It's isn't science, it's nonsense.

      Lets see some proof.. hmmm? no proof? no predictions? no way to falsify?

      yeah, not science. OTOH, if you can show it as scientifically plausible, you would be given lots of offers, and tenure would be assured.
      But you can't because it's wrong.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Public universities tend to be highly political, it's just more of the tempest in a teapot than of the international brinksmanship variety.

      However, that's not what's at play with ID. ID cannot be scientifically tested. It has never had any supporting evidence at all. So, yes, ID will keep you off of the tenure track just like specializing in "practical perpetual motion machines" or a lifetime of trying to decide if the green moon cheese came from a goat or a cow.

  • According to the article, the site was chose for political reasons
    The Energy Department initially identified nine potential repository sites and conducted environmental assessments for each. The department then nominated five of these sites for further study and, in 1986, recommended the three highest-ranking sites for detailed characterization: Yucca Mountain, Deaf Smith County in Texas, and the Hanford Site in Washington state. Hanford and Deaf Smith County were represented, respectively, by House Major
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:22PM (#37695636)

    "It is still not completely clear whether Yucca Mountain would be a good place to bury radioactive waste"

    It was decided 30 years ago that YMP was the best of 5 candidate sites. Prior to that, there were potential sites considered all across the US. But Yucca Mountain was chosen because it fit the criteria for a site best:

    -low to no population near by
    -low to no yearly rainfall
    -low to no geologic activity

    It also sits in the Nevada Test Site. The NTS is a HUGE tract of the (uninhabitable) Nevadan desert reserved for the government. It's a no fly zone, it's a no-go zone, and it's generally one of the most secure pieces of land in the world. If you don't believe me, I suggest you try to drive there. (No, really, don't - you're likely to be shot.)

    This guy wants to say that the billions of dollars of research done into the YMP is "of no use". I suggest he's just another fear monger looking to stir up support for his policies via taking on something the ignorant masses are inherently fearful of. Sure, his analysis sounds level handed, but then the devil's in the details.

    Things that YMP could be if the idiots could just get over themselves:

    -a 'clean up' of some of the more drug infested parts of Nevada

    There's plenty of drug related crime in the closest part of Nevada to the NTS. There's also little to no work up there. Bring the jobs, and the crime will decrease. I'm *sure* of it.

    -a use of otherwise unusable land

    Look, the NTS isn't going anywhere. If it's not storing nuclear waste, the feds are just going to be using it for whatever they use it for. They're not going to sell that land to developers, there's no private use that's ever going to be made of the NTS. Did I mention the NTS is some of the most inhospitable land in the world? There's no chance at society ever desiring a population center near enough to the YMP to be in danger.

    -a huge local stimulus for the Nevada economy.

    Currently, Nevada has gambling tourism as it's sole economy. Any other industry is supportive of tourism. The local "chamber of commerce" (don't get me started on those biased and misleadingly named fools) even sees Nevada's lack of a broad economy as a problem. The YMP would be a long term project requiring the hiring and long term employment of thousands of scientists, engineers, and 'support staff'. We're talking about BILLIONS a year in waste management.

    Or we could let fear mongers tell us that the YMP is a bad idea and leave Nevada to rot.

    PS We have contractual and national security reasons to establish a nuclear waste repository. As part of international agreements the US made to stem nuclear proliferation, the US loaned out nuclear fuel to nations across the world with the understanding that spent nuclear fuel would be shipped back to the US at a later date. That was some time ago and we are now over due on our waste pickup. They can sue the US for BILLIONS in international courts while that dangerous nuclear waste sits in unsecured waste pools around the world.

    • by arkenian (1560563)
      I have to admit I always found it amusing that while Nevada as a whole doesn't want Yucca Mountain in most polls, most polls DID indicate that those areas closest to the facility DID support it (if only for the economic benefits)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @05:24PM (#37695650)

    Yucca mountain would clearly have held our nuclear waste just fine for hundreds of years (which is a lot more than you can say for the places it is currently kept). Any yet they wanted it certified to hold on to the stuff for tens of thousands of years. This is foolish. There's no conceivable scenario wherein humanity would have to worry about the radiation on that time scale. Either we will have come up with a way to make use of it (probably just wised up and used it as fuel) or civilization will have collapsed and we'll have bigger problems (and probably be dealing with far more fallout from nuclear weapons). As strange as it is to say it, our government needs to think more short-term!

    • There's no conceivable scenario wherein humanity would have to worry about the radiation on that time scale.

      If you think there is "no conceivable scenario", you really need to work on improving your imagination. I can think of dozens of scenarios. You really think the only possible outcomes are that someone digs up all that radioactive waste to use as fuel, or that civilization collapses? You can't conceive of a future in which neither of those happens? Come on, that's just silly.

      • I don't think we have any problems in situations where someone could stop by every 100 years or so and replace the signs that say "Keep out! Radiation danger!" with new ones in the new modern language. If they have a Geiger counter, then they could even move the signs in or out relative to the danger.

        Because even if Yucca Mountain leaks in a few hundred years, it probably wouldn't be any worse than Chernobyl or Fukushima are right now.

  • What is the study of the process of "Scientization"? Would that be Scientology?

  • 'Government officials are often guilty of politicizing science. Egged on by business or religious interests, they [...]

    Something I try to always keep in mind is that whenever anyone, including myself, says words implying "everyone else is bad" (or wrong), it's probably naive or arrogant. "Some _______ ________ are suppressed, while others are manipulated or distorted beyond recognition."

    The main problem is common to any doctrine: people. Particularly people with some kind of vested interest, whether it be f

  • I don't understand why we don't just build pyramids, but with radioactive waste instead of dead pharaohs. They've proven that they can last for 4500 years and counting. You can build them almost wherever you want (subject to only to fault lines, nearby human populations, and proximity to radioactive waste generation).

    Also, by this point, I'm not sure Yucca Mountain would be able to hold all of our high-level radioactive waste anyway.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You mean the high level radioactive waste that would fill a foot ball field about a meter in depth? yeah, it would be fine.

      Another clueless person making remarks about Nuclear power. Please STFU, you're kind of people have done us enough harm.

    • I don't understand why we don't just build pyramids, but with radioactive waste instead of dead pharaohs. They've proven that they can last for 4500 years and counting. You can build them almost wherever you want (subject to only to fault lines, nearby human populations, and proximity to radioactive waste generation).

      That's not a bad idea. Lots of jobs. Above ground so we can see it. Use part of the high level waste to make an RTG [wikimedia.org], use the electricity to power giant billboards and use the billboard rental fee to pay off the whole thing.

      Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • Create small IFRs for putting on-site. Seriously, once a power plant is taken down, then a new one should be put up, and it should be an IFR. All that it should do is burn up the 'waste'. This approach would allow us to use what we have.
  • In 2008 I helped the Obama campaign go door to door in Reno. As most of the people going door-to-door were from out of town, they explained to us that people in Reno really, really, really do not want Yucca mountain to open because they really, really, really do not want nuclear waste traveling on interstate 80.

    Interstate 80 travels through the middle of Reno. A nuclear accident on the freeway will cause the city to grind to a halt and potentially destroy their homes and businesses.

    Even though it's possible

  • by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @12:13AM (#37698258) Homepage Journal

    Back in 1987 when Nevada's Yucca Mountain was selected, it also removed
    Gable Mountain at Hanford Washington as a burial site. A lot of money
    had been spent on Gable Mountain already; but for the government that means little.

    When I took a tour of Gable Mt. a milestone had just been met:
    boring a 1000 foot (cite?) horizontal shaft that didn't droop.
    That was a few months before Yucca Mountain got the green light and
    Gable Mt., it's progress, and employees were dropped overnight.

    It was a known fact at that time Yucca Mt. was a bad choice, as the rock
    was porous, and radioactive material could get into the ground water. Gable Mt
    is a slow cooled basalt, non-porous.

    This was a bad time for Hanford. The Chernobyl disaster was a year earlier,
    100-N a plutonium production reactor located at the Hanford site shared a
    common trait with the Chernobyl reactor. It was also graphite moderated,
    because of this it was in the public/political cross hairs.

    DOE, President Regan, and the people of the area wanted 100-N to continue
    operating. The people west of the Cascade Mountains which splits
    Washington State and where the political power is located were against it.

    Politics were generally accepted as the decision to abandon Gable Mt. in
    no small part because of 100-N. Those who could wanted the Hanford site to go away.

    The 100-N reactor was enhanced at a phenomenal cost, started up a few more times
    amid a political storm plaster all over the front page, so no secret. Finally 100-N
    was shut-down due to the pressure, mothballed and now buried.

    The Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) took a hit over this as well, and was shut down
    even though it could of supplied isotopes for medical use - which are now in demand.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_Flux_Test_Facility [wikipedia.org]

    Now those who can are asking once again for Washington state to be considered
    for a burial site. Something they wanted no part of earlier.

    High level nuclear waste disposal is a necessity that needs to be dealt with and soon.
    Even if Yucca Mountain could leak, it was a disposal site and a leak is nothing
    more money can't fix.

    Gable Mt. isn't without it's faults :}
    Geology of Gable Mountain-Gable Butte Area:
    http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=6423229 [osti.gov]

  • Granite Facility (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @05:51AM (#37699372) Journal
    Yucca mountain is not a suitable site because it is made of pumice and geologically active evidenced by recent aftershocks of 5.6 within ten miles of a repository that is supposed to be geologically stable for at least 500000 years. The DOE's own 1982 Nuclear Waste policy Act reported that the Yucca Mountain's geology is inappropriate to contain nuclear waste, and long term corrosion data on C22 (the material to contain the Pu-239 and mitigate the ingress of water - yet another Yucca problem) is just not available.

    We need something made of granite. The only human made structure with the potential to last 10000 years is Mt Rushmore, so it has to be an engineering project of that scale, because the logistical problems of transferring the 70000 odd tons of Pu239 to the "waste repository" (in reality - containment facility) are so involved that you want to get it right the first time and only do it once.

    Even doing that will probably take 30 years to complete, but there is more to it than that.

    I was a big fan of the Integral Fast Reactor [wikipedia.org], and in a way I still am. But the reality is 3rd and 4th generation reactors are a pipe dream because our material science is not advanced enough yet to produce a reactor design that will last thousands of years. If you are going to build reactors then do it properly and build a Terra-watt scale nuclear reactor facility in the belly of a massive granite mountain with an attached waste facility that chomps up all your remaining plutonium or end all commercial nuclear activity altogether. As for the PBMR [wikipedia.org] this reactor has some serious design flaws that, upon a closer examination of the design, makes them no better than RBMK [wikipedia.org] as they age, especially when you are talking about a reactor design that lasts a inadequate 4-5 decades.

    Nuclear power is energy intensive *after* the energy has been produced simply because our technology - especially material sciences - are not adequate to produce a Nuclear reactor (preferably a IFR style but safer) that has a life span that matches the geological time frames of the fuel. This exposes all the issues associated with de-commissioning reactor sites every 4 decades or so. We need a reactor design that lasts at least 1000 years and is a closed loop, i.e. the plutonium goes in and nothing comes out (except electricity and possibly hydrogen). In short the smart thing is for us to do is stop producing toy nuclear reactors, while we still can, and build a dedicated place to store the plutonium (ie a granite mountain) that is also a suitable place to build a Terra-watt scale reactor that satisfies those characteristics. A well designed and secured facility resistant to attacks even from orbit.

    I don't hide the fact that I don't like the constant failure of the Nuclear Industry. But I'm also being realistic. I realise that the only way out of this mess is a well thought out and designed project because we have no other choice due to the nature of the materials. You have to redesign the entire industry, and it's a long term solution, but a much better legacy for future generations than a long term problem that will last a minimum of 25,000 years.

    In the meantime we need to invest heavily in undeveloped, low externality, energy solutions like solar, wind, geo-thermal and micro-generation so there is enough energy *available* to carry out such an infrastructure project properly.

    The DOE's original policy was the 'Defense in Depth' approach to the specification for building a spent fuel containment facility. The reason to choose a specific geology (granite) was, in addition to being stable, to have the geologic chemistry of the rock able to mitigate the effect of ground water traveling through the facility and carrying radioactive isotopes into the water table. The half lives of the actinides would be dependent on the reactor,

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