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2014-02-09. Nuclear Waste Solution Seen in Desert Salt Beds.

posted Feb 11, 2014, 1:01 PM by Alan Gould
For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: CARLSBAD, N.M. — Half a mile beneath the desert surface, in thick salt beds left behind by seas that dried up hundreds of millions of years ago, the Department of Energy is carving out rooms as long as football fields and cramming them floor to ceiling with barrels and boxes of nuclear waste. ...At a rate of six inches a year, the salt closes in on the waste and encapsulates it for what engineers say will be millions of years. ...The material buried at the plant, which began accepting waste in 1999, is limited by law to plutonium waste from making weapons, which is exceptionally long-lived but not highly radioactive. The waste from spent nuclear fuel, which is far more radioactive in its first few centuries, is not permitted. But experts say that proper testing and analysis might show that the salt beds at WIPP are a good home for the radioactive waste that was once meant for Yucca. ...Allison M. Macfarlane, a geologist who is chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission..., said ...“The main lesson from WIPP [Waste Isolation Pilot Plant] is that we have already developed a geologic repository for nuclear waste in this country, so we can in the future,” she said. The key, she said, is a site that is acceptable to both scientists and the local community. ...In the nearby community, business and political leaders are agitating for expansion.  ...But at the state level, there is active opposition.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/science/earth/nuclear-waste-solution-seen-in-desert-salt-beds.html. Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.