James Conca, Geochemist: Yucca Mountain has always been political, from its initial choice to its recent death. The problem this time is that most of our high-level nuclear waste is no longer high-level. And most scientists agree we shouldn’t dispose of spent nuclear fuel until we reuse it in our new reactors that are designed to burn it. Besides, the highly-fractured, variably saturated, dual-porosity volcanic tuff at Yucca Mountain with highly oxidizing groundwater, was the wrong rock to begin with, causing the cost to skyrocket and the technical hurdles to keep mounting. Anti-nuclear activists have used Yucca Mt. to oppose the new generation of nuclear power plants by saying we have no place to put the waste. Unfortunately, everyone has focused on the political and legal aspects without understanding the science. And we know what happens when Human Law runs into Natural Law – Natural Law wins every time.
James Conca - I have been a scientist in the field of the earth and environmental sciences for 31 years, specializing in geologic disposal of nuclear waste, energy-related research, subsurface transport and environmental clean-up of heavy metals. I have found that important societal issues involving science and technology are rarely made on the basis of science, but on people's perception of science. Science is necessary but insufficient. It seems to be more important to understand Fareed Zakaria than Stephen Hawking, although you better understand both if you want to solve issues like sustainable energy development.
James Conca, Judith Wright - Massive salt deposits, such as the Salado Formation near Carlsbad, New Mexico, offer a ready solution to the disposal of nuclear waste, a major impediment to solving our power generation and environmental needs in the next fifty years. This geologic unit is already host to permanently disposed nuclear waste at the WIPP site.
Ray Hunter sends a letter to Senator Harry Reed describing the way the government has been dealing with spent nuclear fuel, Yucca Mountain, and fast reactors,