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The "Scientization" of Yucca Mountain 226

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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  • 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 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!

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