Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage, USA


Description

In 1982, the U.S government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that requires the deep geologic repositories for nuclear waste. In 1983, Yucca Mountain was named as a potential site for a nuclear waste repository. In 1996, Yucca Mountain is found to be lacking the natural geological and hydrological qualities that are needed to be the crucial first barrier of the waste. This requires the project to start relying on engineered barriers. In 2001 several environmental organizations and state of Nevada, filed lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nevada also filed lawsuits against the U.S. government, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), challenging the Yucca Mountain project. In August of 2013, a federal appeals court ruled to resume the licensing process for a nuclear waste storage facility on Yucca Mountain.

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Basic Data
NameYucca Mountain nuclear waste storage, USA
CountryUnited States of America
ProvinceNevada, Arizona, Utah, California
SiteWestern Shoshone Lands
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Nuclear
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Nuclear waste storage
Specific CommoditiesUranium
Nuclear waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIf filled, Yucca Mountain is able to hold 70,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste. The finished repository would be 42 miles long and 1000 feet below the surface of Yucca Mountain.
Project Area (in hectares)1294
Level of Investment (in USD)10 billion by the United State Government, 22 billion paid to the United States government by utility companies
Potential Affected PopulationIf completed: ~1,600. If finished, safety concerns exist with transport of nuclear waste on U.S roads- Potential for large number of affected
Start Date1986
Relevant government actorsUnited States Department of Energy, United States Congress, United States Environmental Protection Agency, State of Nevada, Clark County government
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNational Environmental Coalition of Native Americans, The Western Shoshone Defense Project, Chief Raymond D. Yowell and the Western Shoshone International Council, The Western Shoshone National Council (WSNC), The Western Shoshone Nation, Native American Health Network
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherPotentially, nuclear accidents
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Moratoria
Development of AlternativesThe Blue Ribbon Commission (developed under President Barack Obama) will have to determine alternatives for long term storage of nuclear waste. Currently, the waste is held at temporary above ground facilities, most often at the nuclear facility in which it was produced.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Yes, this is currently an environmental justice success because the organized opposition, successful litigation and environmental analysis has been able to prevent the storage of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain for many years. Due to the lack of health precautions and lack of regard for Native American culture the implications of Yucca Mountain could have been disastrous.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Clark County has been creating resolutions against Yucca Mountain since 1985

References

(n.d.). Summary of the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 Discussion Draft.

University of Michigan, Environmental Justice Case Study: The Yucca Mountain High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository and the Western Shoshone
[click to view]

University of Michigan, Environmental Justice Case Study: The Yucca Mountain High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository and the Western Shoshone
[click to view]

Valerie Kuletz, The tainted desert. Environmental an social ruin in the American West (Routledge, New York, 1998).
[click to view]

Garvey, T. (2012). Closing Yucca Mountain: Litigation Associated with Attempts to Abandon the Planned Nuclear Waste Repository. Congressional Research Service .

Links

University of Michigan, Environmental Justice Case Study: The Yucca Mountain High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository and the Western Shoshone
[click to view]

Other Documents

Test site board KRT NEWS STORY SLUGGED: YUCCA KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS POLYDOROFF/ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS (KRT118-January 29) A sign for Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, marks the highly restricted nuclear waste test site.
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan.
Meta Information
ContributorSara Orvis, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update04/01/2016
Comments