Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Nuclear waste notions unfounded


February 22, 2017 | View PDF

Based on opposition from Nara Visa residents, the Quay County Commission has withdrawn support for a proposed borehole to be drilled through three miles of granite near Nara Visa.

The companies bidding for the borehole contract, however, have apparently not given up.

Nara Visa residents based their opposition on unfounded suspicions they might bury nuclear waste there.

Nara Visa, however, is an absolutely lousy place to put nuclear waste, though it’s a great place to find out if you can drill straight through three miles of granite.

Here are 10 reasons why a borehole at Nara Visa won’t lead to nuclear waste being buried there:

1. There are farms, ranches, the vital Ogallala aquifer, Ute Lake and the Canadian River, and several thousand people too close to the site to make it suitable for high-level nuclear waste.

2. All four of the borehole sites under consideration are too close to people and key resources, and are too accessible to be good waste sites.

3. They don’t even know whether they can drill precision boreholes that deep yet. Nara Visa has the right kind deep rock formations that will allow them to find out.

4. The Department of Energy has been open and above-board in its search for a high-level nuclear waste repository since the 1980s. The stakes are too high to get it wrong or to make a cheap attempt to hide their intentions.

5. The $40 million estimated cost of drilling research boreholes is a drop in the bucket, about four one-thousandths, of the $9 billion the DOE has spent so far in looking for a way and a place to store nuclear waste.

6. Even if after testing and evaluation boreholes are the technology of choice, the process of finding a site, getting approvals and local consent, and licensing a high-level waste repository will start from scratch. That will take years.

7. The DOE will be looking for a place similar to rugged, isolated Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to store the nation’s high-level nuclear waste. Yucca Mountain was canceled only after a power play by Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

8. The DOE liked Yucca Mountain because it is located in a “closed hydrologic basin.” That means the little water that falls there stays there. Nara Visa lies on top of one of the most important aquifers in the country, not to mention Ute Lake and the Canadian River.

9. The DOE liked Yucca Mountain because it is surrounded by federal land. Quay County has almost none.

10. The DOE liked Yucca Mountain because it is protected by natural geologic barriers (steep, rocky, dry desert mountains). Nara Visa and the other proposed borehole test sites are on flat ground, too easy to get to.

The county still has an opportunity to host a valuable science project that will continue to serve our area long after the borehole project goes away, fully confident that any boreholes that might host nuclear waste will be located far away from us.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: stevenmhansen@plateautel.net


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