Sample Proposal Essay

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory disagree over the long-term safety of the proposed high level nuclear waste site located in Nevada.In 1994, Charles Bowman, a researcher at Los Alamos, developed a theory claiming that years of storing waste in the mountain may actually start a nuclear chain reaction and explode, similar to an atomic bomb [Taubes, 1995].

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Such a volcanic eruption could release damaging amounts of radioactivity to the environment.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), a repository for high-level radioactive waste must meet several criteria including safety, location, and economics [Roush, 1995].

As far as location, a waste site cannot be in an area with a large population or near a ground water supply.

Also, because one of the most significant factors in determining the life span of a possible repository is how long the waste storage canisters will remain in tact, the waste site must be located in a dry climate to eliminate the moisture that can cause the waste canisters to corrode.

There are at least a dozen young volcanoes within 40 kilometers of the proposed Yucca Mountain waste site [Weiss, 1996].

The proximity of Yucca Mountain to these volcanoes makes it possible to have a volcanic eruption pass through the spent fuel waste repository.

The stir caused by theory suggests that researchers have not explored all sides of the safety issue concerning potentially hazardous situations at Yucca Mountain.

Bowman's theory that Yucca Mountain could explode is based upon the idea that enough waste will eventually disperse through the rock to create a critical mass.

Rather, I will discuss qualitatively how well Yucca Mountain meets each criterion.

In some situations, disagreement exists among experts as to how well Yucca Mountain meets a criterion. In this assessment, only Yucca Mountain will be considered as a possible site.

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