[ RadSafe ] [ RadSafe Yucca Mtn.

Jerry Cohen jjcohen at prodigy.net
Mon Sep 20 22:03:08 CDT 2010

Since my views on the Yucca Mountain Project to the effect that the YMP is, 
and always has been a dumb idea seem to have elicited some comments (mostly 
negative), from Radsafers, perhaps I should elaborate. To provide some 
perspective on the subject, allow me first to discuss the history of the 
development of HLW policy in the USA to give some idea on how the situation 
degenerated into its currently dismal state. Then, for what it is worth, I 
shall give my ideas on how nuclear waste should be managed in this country.
The problem began, I believe, in 1957 when the AEC decided it needed to 
establish a policy for managing HLW. Accordingly, the AEC requested the NAS 
to form an expert committee to make recommendations. Unfortunately, since 
this committee consisted almost entirely of geologists and other earth 
scientists, it was apparently predetermined that underground burial of the 
HLW was the only reasonable method for disposing the waste. Initially, it 
was recommended that HLW, appropriately solidified, be emplaced in abandoned 
salt mines, where it could remain indefinitely since it was unlikely that 
water would infiltrate. Several years and millions of dollars later, for 
various political and technical reasons the idea was abandoned and the AEC, 
and successor organizations (ERDA, & DOE) embarked on a series of 
unsuccessful, schemes to bury the waste somewhere that would be 
technologically and politically acceptable. This approach also turned out to 
be a fiasco because pretty much everywhere (including Nevada) was in 
somebody's "backyard". During this period a few "voices in the wilderness" 
,including myself, recommended that oceanic deposal, might be the best bet. 
Foremost, among them was Charles Osterberg, a prominent oceanographer 
working with the IAEA and, Director of their Marine Laboratory. The capacity 
of  the ocean to dilute is so great that even if all the HLW were  to 
dissolve (an absurd possibility) the radioactive concentration would still 
be insignificant from a public health standpoint. If the HLW were vitrified 
or solidified into an insoluble form, the health and safety consequences 
would be of no consequence. Of course, the actual consequences are 
unimportant compared to the perceived effects. This simple observation was 
apparent to just about everyone involved with HLW policy. Accordingly , if 
the perception of hazard (real or imagined) is the overriding consideration 
in gaining acceptability for any HLW management policy, why have we wasted 
billions of dollars on technological research including waste solidification 
methods and geologic studies? Does anyone really believe that Senator Reid 
cares about the solubility of the waste form, the migration rate of 
dissolved waste, or the calculated radiation dose that might result from any 
"worst case" scenario. I seriously doubt it. He just doesn't want it in his 
       OK, so what policy for HLW management should be applied, I suggest:

1. All nuclear fuel should be reprocessed and all fissile material recovered 
for fuel fabrication or other useful purposes.
2. The raffinates including all unusable fission products should be 
solidified by mixing it in concrete and emplaced and solidified in suitable 
3. The waste containing drums should be transported to the deepest part of 
the ocean, and dropped to descend (>10 km.) to the ocean floor.

I realize that the actual application would be much more complex, but I 
think you can get the idea from the suggested steps . I am sure you can 
think or lots of reasons why this will not work, but I really believe that 
no matter how distasteful this approach might be to the "Greenies" , it 
would absolutely minimize resultant radiation exposure and for that reason 
ought to be acceptable to reasonable people.

Jerry Cohen

More information about the RadSafe mailing list