YUCCA MOUNTAIN: Earth-Science Issues at a Geologic Repository for High-Level Nuclear Waste
The nation has over 40,000 metric tonnes (MT) of nuclear waste destined for disposal in a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain. In this review, we highlight some of the important geoscience issues associated with the project and place them in the context of the process by which a final decision on Yucca Mountain will be made. The issues include understanding how water could infiltrate the repository, corrode the canisters, dissolve the waste, and transport it to the biosphere during a 10,000-year compliance period in a region, the Basin and Range province, that is known for seismic and volcanic activity. Although the site is considered to be "dry," a considerable amount of water is present as pore waters and as structural water in zeolites. The geochemical environment is oxidizing, and the present repository design will maintain temperatures at greater than 100°C for thousands of years. Geoscientists in this project are challenged to make unprecedented predictions about coupled thermal, hydrologic, mechanical, and geochemical processes governing the future behavior of the repository and to conduct research in a regulatory and legal environment that requires a quantitative analysis of repository performance.
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
- Pub Date:
- May 2004