In The Road to Yucca Mountain, J. Samuel Walker traces the U.S. government's tangled efforts to solve the technical and political problems associated with radioactive waste. From the Manhattan Project through the designation in 1987 of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a high-level waste repository, Walker thoroughly investigates the approaches adopted by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). He explains the growing criticism of the AEC's waste programs, such as the AEC's embarrassing failure in its first serious effort to build a high-level waste repository in a Kansas salt mine. Clearly and accessibly, Walker explains the issues surrounding deep geological disposal and surface storage of high-level waste and spent reactor fuel. He analyzes the equally complex and divisive question of fuel “reprocessing.” He weaves reliable research with fresh insights about nuclear science, geology, politics, and public administration, making this original and authoritative account an essential guide for understanding the continuing controversy over an illusive and emotional topic.
List of Illustrations
1. A Solvable Problem
2. A “Huge and Ever-Increasing Problem”
3. An “Atomic Garbage Dump” for Kansas
4. New Directions in Radioactive Waste Management
5. Progressing toward Stalemate
6. Commercial Low-Level Waste: A "Once Low Priority Matter"
7. The Transportation of Nuclear Waste
8. A Legislative “Solution”
Essay on Sources
J. Samuel Walker is the historian of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He is the author of Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective and Permissible Dose: A History of Radiation Protection in the Twentieth Century as well as Containing the Atom: Nuclear Regulation in a Changing Environment, 1963-1971, all from UC Press.
"Walker's thoughtful and detailed history of the technology and politics of the nuclear waste problem lucidly illustrates why, more than sixty years after the Dawn of the Atomic Age, we have yet to get any of the stuff into the ground safely and effectively, where it belongs. This book should be required reading for everyone, whether politician, bureaucrat or citizen."—Ronnie D. Lipschutz, author of Radioactive Waste: Politics, Technology and Risk
"Measured, informative, and well-argued, The Road to Yucca Mountain is typical Walker. One of the most knowledgeable historians on nuclear power has produced an essential work on a complex problem—What to do with radioactive waste? In setting the context on this controversial subject, Walker educates us on how we confront nuclear power as a viable option and its long-range implications."—Martin Melosi, author of Energy Metropolis
"Walker's fascinating account details the United States' 60-year search for radioactive waste solutions. Here scientists, policymakers, politicians, activists, and the public alternately clash and cooperate, and prospects for a solution wane and wax accordingly. In the end, after billions of dollars, years of hearings, and miles of tunnels, we're back at square one."—Richard Wolfson, author of Nuclear Choices: A Citizen's Guide to Nuclear Technology
Richard W. Leopold Prize, Organization of American Historians