The Challenge of Yucca Mountain

by Steve Frishman, Technical-Policy Coordinator; Agency for Nuclear Projects, Carson City, Nevada 89710,
James F. Thompson, Vice Pres., Proj. Mgr.; H. Platt Thompson Engineering Co., Inc., Houston, TX 77040,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 4, Pg. 44-46

Document Type: Feature article


Yucca Mountain is the most likely site for the nation's high level nuclear wastes. Congress chose the site out of three candidates for further study before designating it as final. The project presents unprecedented engineering challenges. Among them are predicting the geologic and hydraulic events at the site for the next 10,000 years. Yucca Mountain is in the unsaturated zone with a host rock of welded volcanic tuff. There is rock cover above the water table and the rock is chemically and mineralogically favorable to retardation of radionuclide migration. However, the science of hydrology in the unsaturated zone is thought to be in its infancy. Several specialists in this area comment on the status of this science and its implications for a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Subject Headings: Radioactive wastes | Waste sites | Hydraulics | Welding | Volcanic deposits | Water table | Chemicals | Radioactive materials

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