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Former Yucca Mountain chief scientist signing book on Saturday

Former Yucca Mountain Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Voegele will be at the Pahrump Valley Museum on Saturday to discuss and sign copies of “Waste of a Mountain: How Yucca Mountain was Selected, Studied, and Dumped.

The Pahrump Valley Museum and Historical Society is hosting the special presentation for the newly-released book detailing the history of the Yucca Mountain project at 1 p.m.

Voegele, a 30-plus-year resident of Southern Nevada, authored the book with co-author Donald Vieth.

The two-volume set covers the history of the United States’ high-level radioactive waste program, while at the same time, focuses on particular details of the overall Yucca Mountain project. The book also cites the background of the creation of radioactive waste and the national search for repository sites before 1980.

Museum Director Marilyn Davis said Voegele would also sign the set released in June of this year.

“The cost is $100 for the two-volume set of books, and it, of course, entails the history of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project,” she said. “They can purchase the book exclusively here at the museum.”

The timing for the release of Voegele’s book comes as congressional discussions continue on the issue of Yucca Mountain and radioactive waste storage in the U.S.

“There’s enough going on right now that one might want to consider reviewing again what went on at Yucca Mountain,” he said. “I began writing this book at the same time the program was getting shut down in 2010 or 2011. I just didn’t know how long it was going to be shut down.”

As the former chief scientist of the project, Voegele advised readers that the book does not necessarily support a pro-Yucca Mountain position.

He noted that the book is meant to detail the history of Yucca Mountain for congressional staffers.

“We wrote this for people who are working with the program and don’t have the experience,” he said. “Don and I were both in the program back in the 1970s, and we wrote this book to be objective and to me, that’s one of the most important things.”

Though Voegele declined to say whether he fully supports the project, he did say that his research revealed no other site in the nation would be more suitable to store the country’s highly-radioactive waste than Yucca Mountain.

In 1987, Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the sole site for a deep, geological repository to store such high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

“We now have evidence that Yucca Mountain is a good site and let’s move forward on it,” he said. “The Department of Energy picked Yucca Mountain and their argument is that we have waste building up in a lot of communities around the United States.”

Additionally, Voegele said the action would be in all of Nevadans’ best interests if the site ever became operational.

“There are a lot of benefits for Nevada if Yucca Mountain is brought back,” he said. “The roads, the water and the land. Why can’t that be on the table and why can’t there be a role for Nevada in the oversight for whatever is done here? Why can’t there be new roads and highways built? They can build us a new highway and give us some compensation for taking this in.”

The qualifications for both men are beyond reproach.

According to their respective bios, Voegele, with degrees in engineering and geology, worked on the nation’s high-level waste program for more than 35 years and began full-time employment on the Yucca Mountain Project following passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

After leaving the Yucca Mountain Project, he supported the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Project Office.

Vieth, who has his doctorate in metallurgical engineering, began his 33-year career in the federal government as a bench scientist with the Bureau of Standards in 1963.

The Pahrump Valley Museum and Historical Society is at 401 E. Basin Ave.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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