Assessing a Repository

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Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1243
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1243b

Soon, a decision will be made by the U.S. Secretary of Energy on whether to recommend Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site for storage of high-level radioactive waste. The waste would be stored in what is known as the saturated zone at Yucca Mountain. Here, water from rain and snow percolate downward to the water table, traveling along fractures in the rocks through the mountain and the repository level, which is now (and likely has been for hundreds of thousands of years) at least 200 meters above the water table. A major concern about the suitability of the site has been the possibility that waste might be mobilized or released by interaction with this percolating water over thousands of years. Flint et al. provide a timely overview of recent work on the unsaturated zone hydrology of Yucca Mountain, including an evaluation of the amount, distribution, and flow of water; they also examine modeling efforts aimed at assessing the overall hydrology and, ultimately, at predicting future outcomes should the climate change.—BH

Rev. Geophys.39, 447 (2001).

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