Yucca Mountain

Location

Nevada, United States

Description

Yucca Mountain in Nevada is the site of the United States' primary nuclear waste repository. The site is located on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Test Site, roughly 80 miles (130km) northwest of Las Vegas.

The facility consists of an underground U-shaped main tunnel five miles (8km) long and 25 feet (7,6m) wide, with several branching tunnels in which waste is stored. The repository has the capacity to hold 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel.

A railway line runs into the facility, by which nuclear waste is carried in secure containers.

History

The Yucca Mountain site was selected in 1987 and should have begun accepting waste in 1998. Following protests by the state of Nevada and several environmental groups, the Department of Energy (DOE) was forced to spend billions of dollars on site re-evaluation, setting the project completion date back 16 years. Amid great controversy, construction of the facility was finally completed early in 2014.

On 14 September 2014, when the first consignment of spent fuel rods was supposed to arrive at the repository, environmental protestors forced a shutdown of operations, precipitating a crisis when tons of radioactive waste was left on a stationary train sitting on damaged rails at the repository entrance.

After a week-long standoff, Army units were deployed on 21 September in a effort to disperse the protestors. Some violent clashes ensued, until the situation was eventually calmed by the protestors' spokesman Luthor Abraham.