Research NewsRadioactive Waste Disposal

A Hint of Unrest at Yucca Mountain

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Science  27 Mar 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5359, pp. 2040-2041
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5359.2040

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Because Yucca Mountain in southern Nevada has been so quiet for millennia, researchers have concluded that the risks of earthquakes and volcanoes striking it are low, making it the leading candidate to become the long-term U.S. repository for highly radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants. But on page 2096 of this issue of Science, a team of geologists and geophysicists reports that the crust at Yucca Mountain is stretching at least 10 times faster today than it has on average over geologic time. If so, the researchers argue, the area could be suffering a bout of rapid crustal deformation that would boost the chances of a disaster such as a volcanic eruption during the 10,000-year life of the repository by as much as a factor of 10.