Some Nuclear Waste Sites in the United States

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, NM

WIPP opened in 1999 to receive transuranic wastes from weapons production, in the salt caverns of Southern New Mexico. While dry salt crystal seemed a safe storage medium, opponents proved that once the caverns were breached for construction, seepage and corrosion is inevitable. A lot of oil drilling in the area also involves injecting water under pressure, which could cause fracturing and leakage. New Mexico had to repeatedly go to court to try to collect federal funds initially promised to them as incentive for accepting the dump. 

The Proposed Yucca Mt. High-Level Waste Repository, NV

The Proposed Yucca Mt. High-Level Waste Repository, just west of the Nevada Test Site, was the only option being studied from 1987 to 2010 for disposal of 70,000 tons of high level waste, irradiated fuel rods from commercial and naval reactors. It lies on treaty lands of the Western Shoshone in the third most active earthquake zone in the U.S.. Each scientific study done showed more clearly why Yucca Mt. is a hopeless site for the isolation of high-level radiation from the biosphere, but the government response was to repeatedly lower the safety standards. Even that didn't work, and the project was abandonned in 2010. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not allowed the license application to be withdrawn by the Department of Energy, so... stay tuned.

Transporting fuel rods safely to the site from all over the U.S. is not possible under present conditions. Containers that could stop all radiation emissions would have walls twelve feet thick and be impossible to move. Highway systems were designed to link major metropolitan areas, and routes would pass within one half mile of over 50 million Americans. Even if the impossible happened and no accident were to occur during the 100,000 or so total truckloads crisscrossing the country, emissions would continuously and cumulatively affect other drivers, children in school crosswalks, local residents and shipment handlers.

When the Yucca Mt. proposal dragged on for years, attempts have been made to site interim Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) facilities on Indian Reservations. In a remarkable new form of ‘complimentary’ racism, the federal government has suggested that Native Americans, because of their spiritual connection with the Earth, are the logical caretakers of the nation’s most toxic substances.

The Skull Valley Goshute Reservation, UT

The Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah, already seriously contaminated by military enterprises and unable to attract other development, is currently considering MRS with a private consortium of nuclear utility corporations. Numerous other Native Nations have considered and refused. However, Goshute tribal officials are finally being investigated for gross mismanagement of preliminary funds, and tribal members are battling for new leadership.

Ward Valley, CA, and Sierra Blanca, TX

Efforts to site low-level waste dumps in Ward Valley, CA, and Sierra Blanca, TX, were defeated in 1999-2000 by multi-ethnic grassroots coalitions after years of hard work. New efforts have been initiated by waste-handling corporations in West Texas to site a dump in Monihans, east of Pecos. Utah has passed a ‘nuclear waste tax’ to discourage more dumping there.