Yucca Mountain could face greater volcanic threat



Locating a radioactive waste repository in the United States has been the subject of over 20 years of scientific research, political wrangling, and court decisions. If a nuclear waste repository is constructed at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel will be buried 300 m below the surface.

Because eight Quaternary basalt volcanoes erupted within 50 km of the proposed repository in the past million years, future volcanism is an important issue. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently using an expert panel to evaluate current models [Perry et al., 1998] and consider alternative models. This article presents an alternative model, developed independently of DOE and the expert panel, and reviews new information pertinent to volcanic hazard studies. Additionally, this article suggests that the size of the Yucca Mountain volcanic field is not presently well known.