Friday, January 13, 2012

Nuclear waste storage in Arizona salt deposits

State Senator Al Melvin's proposal to store high level nuclear waste in underground salt caverns in Arizona is drawing attention in the state's news media.

We recommend a couple of references for background on this.

Sandia National Lab released a report a year ago on "Salt Disposal of Heat-Generating Nuclear Waste." The 110-page report is available online at This report identifies 3 salt bodies in Arizona - Red Lake north of Kingman, Luke west of Phoenix, and Supai (or Holbrook) under and east of Holbrook in eastern Arizona.

AZGS published a report in 2002, "Arizona Has Salt!" (AZGS Circular 30, 41p) that summarizes what we know (and don't know) about the many salt bodies around the state. This is available online for viewing or free downloading.

In August, 2011, Sandia issued a companion report, "Granite Disposal of U.S. High-Level Radioactive Waste." The latter report is generating a lot of attention in the last few weeks in eastern and northern Midwestern states that were mentioned as having potentially suitable host rocks.


  1. Anonymous9:17 AM

    For Melvin this is really a "no brainer". He has no brains. Luke and Kingman are in high residential areas and Holbrook salt must still be close to Holbrook. If the environmentalists are blocking Yucca Mountain what do you think our state congressman will do? Bad decision by this representative and does he plan to run for reelection?

    1. Anonymous9:25 AM

      Salt domes are, by definition, not in contact with the water table or else they would have been dissolved away long ago. This makes ancient salt deposits good places for storing nuclear waster. The military has been successfully storing "high level" nuclear waste in salt deposits in southern New Mexico for years. Also salt behaves plastically i.e. it flows, therefore if an earthquake was to fracture the storage site the salt would flow into the fracture and seal itself.

      While anonymous has a valid point that environmentalists will protest, salt domes have many advantages over Yucca mountain.

  2. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Just to keep the facts straight... The WIPP site in southeast New Mexico is not operated by the military, it is operated by the Dept of Energy. It does not contain "high level" waste; it contains "transuranic waste". It is also bedded salt, not domed salt, and it actually is in the saturated zone, meaning it is below the water table and saturated with water -- since the Permian! Nonetheless it is a great site for its purpose.

    And -- ask the residents of Carlsbad how they feel about it. They love it! This could actually be a good idea for Arizona (too bad Nevada does not recognize it as such for them), and it solves some of the radioactive waste problem. Where do Arizona hospitals send their radioactive wastes now? Nowhere. The stuff needs a place to go.