Yucca Mountain Is Designated a Radioactive Waste Repository (Great Events from History II: Ecology and the Environment Series)
Article abstract: Congress named Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as the first permanent U.S. repository for nuclear waste.
Summary of Event
Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are both produced in nuclear reactors. At the heart of all such reactors are large groups of twelve-foot metal tubes filled with pellets of uranium fuel. The average electricity-producing commercial nuclear reactor (there were more than one hundred in 1994, producing about 10 percent of America’s electricity) contains thousands of such tubes, joined into bundles called fuel assemblies. In nuclear reactors, the uranium fuel undergoes nuclear fission, which produces energy in the form of heat. This heat converts water into steam, which runs large steam turbines and produces the desired electricity. The nuclear fission process also converts every reacted uranium atom into highly radioactive"and thus very dangerous" fission by-products called radionuclides. Radionuclides deposit at the surface of the uranium fuel in fuel assemblies.
The process proceeds satisfactorily in a reactor for three to four years, until its fuel assemblies, as a result of surface radionuclide deposits, can no longer sustain enough nuclear fission to produce the needed amounts of electrical power. At this time, the assemblies become spent fuel. Spent fuel, which is rich in dangerous plutonium, strontium, barium, and cesium radionuclides, is then pulled out of the reactors...
(The entire section is 2109 words.)
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