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Nuke Waste Could Kill Storage Plan

Fri., Sept. 12, 1997

Plutonium found in a water well a mile from the site of a 1969 nuclear weapons test has sparked new debate over storing the nation’s radioactive waste at a proposed repository north of here.

“I believe this is another nail in the coffin of the Yucca Mountain project,” Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., said Thursday.

Bryan and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., responded after two chemists with the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories reported traces of plutonium in a well south of the site of an underground test conducted Dec. 19, 1969, and code-named Benham.

Nevada officials are fighting the proposed repository, 100 miles north of Las Vegas, where radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants and some military waste would be stored.

A major concern has been that the waste, which would remain at dangerous levels for 10,000 years, could eventually seep into water tables around the remote desert site.

The plutonium was detected in a monitoring well on the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles north of here, said chemists Annie Kersting of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Joe Thompson of Los Alamos, N.M., National Laboratory.

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