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If I ruled Yucca Mountain…

yucca.bmpAttempts in the United States turn a mountain in Nevada into a long-term nuclear dustbin have been on the rocks for a while. So Congressional watchdog the Government Accountability Office has been looking at alternative uses for the site at Yucca Mountain that has so far had several billion dollars lavished on it.

In other words: the US government has a giant hollowed-out mountain that they don’t know what to do with [pictured].

Obama tried to finally kill off the nuclear-waste plans at the site, but doing so has not proven simple (see: Battle of Yucca Mountain rages on). In the meantime, a huge chunk of land is sitting empty. Its most notable feature, the GAO report notes, is “two large tunnels — one about 5 miles [8 kilometres] long and 25 feet [8 metres] in diameter, and another 2 miles long that branches off of the main tunnel”.

Experts gave the GAO 30 possible uses for this space, including strategic petroleum reserve, command centre for unmanned aerial vehicles and secure data storage. Most of the suggestions, though, relate to nuclear activity, such as interim storage of nuclear waste.

In the end the GAO notes, “This report contains no recommendations. [The Department of] Interior generally agreed with our findings, while DOE [Department of Energy], the US Air Force, and NRC [the Nuclear Regulatory Commission] neither agreed nor disagreed."

That a long term repository for nuclear waste could be repurposed as a short term store for nuclear waste is not hugely surprising. But surely there are more imaginative uses out there? Obviously the classic use for a hollowed-out mountain is Evil Villain’s Lair, but those excited by this prospect might want to keep in mind that Yucca Mountain is next door to both an Air Force Range and the DOE’s Nevada National Security Site.

Nature’s news team have their own suggestions — feel free to add yours…

“Populate it with giant moles.”

“Move Wall Street there / move Occupy Wall Street there (depending on your political leanings).”

“Nuclear tourism! It would make a great haunted house for Halloween in two weeks, compete with glow-in-the-dark canisters and ooze dripping from cracks in the ceiling!”

“Storage space for outmoded sequencers (ABI 3730s, Solid, Helicos).”

“Turn it into an arsenic-laced lake and try to evolve organisms with heavy metals in their DNA.”

“Setting for remake of classic movie War Games.”

Image: DOE


  1. Report this comment

    Uncle Al said:

    1) A 560,000 m^3 volume suitable for 10,000 years’ storage of nuclear reactor waste is a lovely chemical waste repository. How can it not make a mountain of money hiding other people’s problems?

    2) Air compressor, storage tank… giant vuvuzela (lepatata Mambu, Moerstripper).

    3) Hang a sign outside saying “Do Not Steal” and hope it is missing the next day.

    4) National Graffiti Tagger Detention Center.

    5) National healthcare waiting room.

    6) International Innerspace Station Freedom Alpha (plus Project Orion).

    7) Giant boomerang warehouse.

    8) Geocolonoscopy training facility.

    9) Mexican-American Churro Research Institute.

    10) Dig out 560,000 m^3 of rock from under Yucca Mountain to backfill the tunnels. Repeat as necessary.

  2. Report this comment

    rpg said:

    Use it to house a giant railgun to fend off asteroids and other near-Earth objects. (hey, the Earth revolves, right? So you get one chance every 24 hours to fire it.)

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