Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Storing spent nuclear fuel in Arizona

The Arizona Legislature is telling the federal government that we want to store nuclear waste (spent fuel from power plants) in Arizona according to a story in the Arizona Republic.    The legislative resolution passed yesterday is non-binding but the US is looking for alternatives since the Obama Administration pulled the plug on the Yucca Mountain waste repository being built in southern Nevada.

The Arizona initiative is being led by State Senator Al Melvin (R-Saddlebrook) who has been talking about using one of the numerous underground salt bodies in the state to carve out caverns for storing the waste.   [Right, salt deposits in Arizona. AZGS map]

AZGS geologist Jon Spencer gave an overview of Arizona's salt resources to a community forum last night, organized by Sen. Melvin.   AZGS was only providing scientific information about the location, size, and characteristics of salt bodies.  We have not taken a position on how effective or practical salt storage would be, nor are we carrying out any studies of using these salt bodies for possible storage sites.


  1. Why the caution? Nobody has died from radiation at Fukushima. That does not prove that modest levels of radiation are safe, but the science does (see "Radiation and Reason" on Amazon). Arizona (and everybody else) should do some study and welcome the opportunity. It is not a complex scientific problem, see pdf download "Public Trust in Nuclear Energy" at website below. No, I am not an industry-funded "nuke", I am an emeritus professor of Physics at Oxford who wants his grandchildren to live in a nuclear world.

  2. Anonymous2:53 PM

    This has been in the Arizona Republic from time to time. Just so happens my husband worked over 40 years in the nuclear industry. I live less than a mile from one of the salt mines. To say the least I am NOT happy about this at all. The salt mine in Phoenix is across the street from a grade school and Luke Air Force Base. I read the articles in the Republic quite often and several APS Palo Verde people have written reponses, and they have not been too positive about sending the waste to salt mines near populated areas and to have processing plants to boost. The problem is that not all the waste can be reduced to zero even with the processing plants being on site. People from the Carlsbad plant in NM have even sited this problem and refute the number of jobs people claim will be produced with this project. There is also some questions about what happens to the storage areas in the salt mines if there are quakes, water problems or several other things that could happen.

    At the moment the waste from PV is on site. If Harry Reid and the president would allow to have Yucca Mountain opened it would solve this problem. Harry Reid does not want this in his home state of Nevada It is ready to store the waste and is out away from the general public. I do not know how Holbrook or the Kingman area feels about this, but Phoenix has a huge populated area.

    I guess we can send the waste to be housed across the street from Oxford.

  3. Anonymous4:06 PM

    I would like to add something to my anonymous reply above. In Melvin's "My Turn" opinion in January of 2012 there was a good response from someone who talked about fuel storage in salt mines. Obviously he is much more astute on this subject than I am. I hope he does not mind me quoting a portion of his response, but I feel it was rather good and should be shared with an additional audience.

    He says:

    "However, Senator Melvin makes one significant error - while salt is a terrific medium for *disposing* of radioactive waste (i.e., WIPP in Carlsbad, NM), it's bad for *storage* of waste. That's because the salt creeps and flows plastically around the waste, making retrieval after time technically infeasible. Put stuff you don't want to retrieve in salt, but not spent fuel that you may want to retrieve and subsequently reprocess."

    Anyway, I doubt the Morton Salt Company in far West Phoenix would be considered (across the street from a grade school) because at the present time they are storing natural gas on the property. I wonder what would happen if some freak accident occurred at the gas site with the grade school with-in a few hundred yards of the storage facility?

    We have such brilliant people making decisions for our unknowing population!

  4. Anonymous6:59 PM

    On Channel 3 in Phoenix tonight they addressed this subject. A democrat from Flagstaff was totally against this recent endorsement of storage facilities and reprocessing plants in Arizona.

    He said 4 areas would be considered....Safford, Kingman,Pichaco Peak and Holbrook. Nothing said about Phoenix. When the reporters contacted some of these towns the mayors new nothing about this. Typical! To say the least some said they would have to study this proposition and others were totally against the project.

    My question.....who represents these people in our State Legislature? With something as important as this that would affect an area in a positive or negative way (or both) don't they have an obligation to at least inform the leaders of the local community?

    The biggest laugh of all was that one reporter had the gaul to say that it could produce 20,000 jobs. The most I have heard recently was up to 5,000 if there was a processing plant involved in the plans, but in another storage plant-recycling plant there was a considerable less amount of people employed to build, maintain, run, etc.

    From what I have seen the past few years is that our state legislature is completely broken. Everything is divided right down party lines and the Republicans are on the winning side and the Democrats have no chance. The deck is definitely stacked. I don't like this at all on both the federal and state level, and sadly to say I am a Republican, and I am fuming at a lot of different decisions that have been made and a majority of them have come out of the natural resources committee at our state level. The head of the senate natural resources committee is John Nelson and he is my state senator!

  5. Nuclear waste is small in volume, needs to be reprocessed (to recover the unused fuel), is relatively easily shielded and buried. I am not alone in being quite relaxed about its dangers. Yes, you may bury it a few hundred metres below my house near Oxford -- I explained why already in an article at the height of the concern about Fukushima, see