Stop Yucca Mountain!
"The ground under the Yucca Mountain site is crisscrossed by 33 fault lines and is nicknamed “Serpent Swimming West” by the Western Shoshone Indian nation due to its constant movement. Nevada ranks third in the nation for current seismic activity. A 1992 earthquake 12 miles from the site registered 5.6 on the Richter scale."
Excerpt from "Proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Dump Should Not Be Built," on the Web site of Public Citizen, a non-profit public service organization founded by Ralph Nader. For everything you need to know about the Yucca Mountain repository, click on http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/nuclear_power_plants/
Your editorial praising Yucca Mountain ("Time to site nuclear waste") is dead wrong.
Nothing has changed since Nov. 26, 1990, when your Page 2 headline blazoned "Warning at Yucca Mountain: Dump may mean disaster."
The 1990 New York Times article by William J. Broad detailed the work of Energy Department geologist Jerry S. Szymanski, who found indisputable evidence of ground water percolation, as well as seismic and volcanic activity.
University of Colorado geophysicist Charles B. Archambeau, who backed Szymanski's conclusions, was quoted as saying, "If you want to envision the end of the world, that's it."
He laid out a grim scenario. Ground water carries radioactive waste to Death Valley, where hot springs bring it to the surface. Birds, animals and plants are contaminated. The scourge creeps beyond Death Valley.
"You couldn't stop it," he said. "That's the nightmare. It could slowly spread to the whole biosphere."
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's depiction of Yucca Mountain as "scientifically sound" (a euphemism for politically expedient) is driven by President Bush's goal of putting nuclear energy production back on a fast track.
I doubt that anyone at the White House has pored over reports of water-spawned travertine deposits, or six major fault lines visible on the surface. All they know is, it's dry and stable today.
These same folks claim global warming has no scientific basis. What if Nevada's climate changes?
Letter to The Oregonian [February 28, 2002]
Sixteen days after you gave your editorial stamp of approval to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, Molly Ivins made Swiss cheese of your thesis. She needed only nine words to expose the Bush administration's folly:
"Yucca Mountain is in an earthquake zone and leaks."
In the 1980s, Energy Department geologist Jerry Szymanski found irrefutable evidence of ground water percolation, as well as six fault lines visible on the surface.
University of Colorado geophysicist Charles Archambeau issued this grim forecast: "If you want to envision the end of the world, that's it."
Energy Department officials did their best to discredit Szymanski, as did University of Utah geologists Thure E. Cerling and Jay Quade, whose preposterous conclusion — mineral deposits associated with water date back more than 300,000 years — flies in the face of logic, not to mention hydrology.
After the last Ice Age, which ended 10-12,000 years ago, ground water rose to a level that would fill the proposed underground dump. A hint that Yucca Mountain portends "the end of the world" is reason enough to back off.
The End of the World
Twelve thousand years ago when melting ice
Made chains of islands of Nevada peaks
Like Yucca Mountain, born of sudden thrusts
Deep in the Earth — the grabens and the horsts,
Your classic block-and-basin stuff — no words
Foretold catastrophe. Yet nothing speaks
So clearly of what's coming next as this
Co-mingling of reality and dream,
Six active faults exposed by recent quakes,
Old percolations trailing travertine,
A burning need to bury lethal waste
So industry can underpin the myth
That out-of-sight means tight security
And all is well from sea to shining sea.
"Some say the world will end in fire, some say
In ice," wrote Robert Frost, who favored fire.
If he had known that radiation burns
Inside a person's bones and turns the flesh
To mush, he might have swung his weight to ice,
Which he admitted would suffice. He saw
The end of Mother Earth as clean and nice,
Not tortured by the specter of a slow
Extinctions piled ahead on either hand
As radiation works its fingers up
The food chain, link by link. He saw
The way it used to be when nature dealt
The cards -- volcano's fire or glacier's ice.
The Geologic Periodic Chart
Reads like a catalog of instant change.
Each tiny line within an Age divides
Survivors from unlucky ones who say,
Like trilobites to ammonites, "So long."
Malancovich was first to note the bob
And weave of Earth, and correlate the mix
Of fire and ice. His interglacial mode
Is all we've known since people first set sail
And charted fertile coastlines clear to where
They saw the southern continents drop off.
There have been mass extinctions in the past.
The Permian-Triassic springs to mind,
Cretaceous-Tertiary close behind.
Nevada's Yucca Mountain has appeal.
It's miles from anywhere a body knows.
It offers jobs to locals out of work.
It paves the county roads and pays the cops.
It lends bravado to the good ol' boys
Who populate the local bars and play
The nickel slots, eyes on the tourist trade.
This wisdom doesn't mention backing off,
Though questions left unanswered point the way.
What happens when the coming climate change
Pours unaccustomed wetness up the cracks
That liken Yucca Mountain to a sponge
When polar ice caps melt entirely away
And ocean levels rise three hundred feet?
As soon as Mother Earth cools down and lets
Green things emerge from under rocks, the bugs
Will stir. Insectivores, some new, some old,
Will pop up from their holes. The skies will fill
With birds. In time, most monuments of man
Will vanish, cracked like Anasazi bowls,
Some ground to dust beneath advancing ice,
Some turned to mush in magma's molten churn.
Let's say that one day wind and rain and cold
Expose a western mountain's hollow flank.
Let's say that sentient creatures have again
Evolved who stand in awe before a site
Seen as a tomb from prehistoric times.
What if they can't decode the signs we left?
The Mayan calendar is curious
In that it ends in 20-12 A.D.
Can we construe from this a Mother Earth
Stripped bare and impotent? Can we expect
The closing of accounts, where those of faith
Fall into ranks and files, and preen their wings
While godless souls cavort like sophomores?
Perhaps some Mayan sage foresaw the rank
Absurdity and callow disregard
That mark today's society. Perhaps
The Maya meant to give us time to turn
Our vision of the world around. Perhaps
It's nothing but a diabolic joke,
A giant F inscribed across the sky.
Letter to The Oregonian [January 25, 2002]
TV news reports a stealth plane that can be assembled in a garage, and in a separate story shows a map detailing rail and highway routes for shipping radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain. Let's hope Osama wasn't watching.
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