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Risk assessment failures - WIPP
Quote:Roger Yates Anderson's WIPP page

The goal for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) was to demonstrate to scientists and the public that there was an answer to the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Drums of waste are now moving down the shaft and into the tunnels at the WIPP site in southeastern New Mexico. Did WIPP scientists solve the problem? This web page is about the successes and failures of science at WIPP.


h/t http://femalefaust.blogspot.com

Science says salt mines are a bad place to store radioactive waste.  Risk assessment fails when politicians choose the science to fund for the answers they want.  

Quote:DOE science managers, in their evaluation of petroleum resources, managed to produce a "best case" estimate. The diversion bought time and took the project through the construction phase and the point of no return.

At WIPP, once the project was funded, and once a staff of scientists and engineers was in place, a form of psychic inbreeding took over. Re-evaluating the project in the light of new evidence was never an option and the science selected data and chose assumptions that furthered the mission. When some members of the team came to believe that other facts and assumptions, harmful to the mission, were more plausible, and when they persisted in this view, they were no longer considered team members and left the project.

The problem with making any kind of risk assessment comes when it's not your life directly and immediately involved but generalized to someone else at some future time.  

DOE will continue to look for the cheapest, easiest solution for their radioactive waste sequestration strategies.  Using salt mines and abandoned well holes has delayed the danger and only puts it out of sight.  Granite repositories such as Yucca Mtn. have problems with cracks and leaks and are even more expensive. Dumping at sea was always a favored method until local conditions no longer supported aquatic life, then it was a bad idea.  Most of the radioactive material still sits on land in various locations or just under the surface like the West Lake landfill waiting for time to pass and someone else to take responsibility.  What the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) demonstrated to scientists and the public was that our best technology has no answer to the problem of safe, long-term nuclear waste disposal.
"The map is not the territory that it is a map of ... the word is not the thing being referred to."

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