Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 | 7:11 a.m.
As a chemical engineer experienced in hazard analysis, I find most of the rhetoric about the hazards of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project totally baseless. Spent nuclear fuel is nonreactive and nonvolatile. It will be contained in essentially bomb-proof capsules.
In the event of a train wreck or a terrorist attack, the most likely result would be a metal sarcophagus full of solid waste dumped on the tracks. It would have to be picked up by a specialized crew with a crane. In comparison, a railcar full of chlorine could kill thousands as the toxic cloud spreads across the city.
As far as water leaking into Yucca Mountain, there is no more likelihood of contaminating the groundwater than there is from the nuclear residue that already exists in the ground at the Nevada Test Site. The spent fuel is essentially insoluble in water.
The issue is all about the politics: If people understood the true nature of nuclear waste, the politicians might have to quit their pandering.
This project would accelerate the switch from coal and gas to nuclear power plants, the only major clean power alternative. And charging the utilities for storing the waste will provide an endless source of revenue for the state.
The baloney about insufficient paperwork needs to stop. The project needs to proceed based on its true risks and benefits.
Tom Keller, Henderson