Federal Nuke Waste Site at Yucca Mountain Threatens Million of Americans' Food

Federal Nuke Waste Site at Yucca Mountain Threatens
Million of Americans' Food

By: Celia Sue Hecht

Faces of Amargosa Valley by Celia Sue Hecht

An 18 kilometer street sign marks the buffer zone, point of compliance,
and to visitors, it may seem like just another street sign in Amargosa
Valley, Nevada.

Agriculture is big business here and this is the home of the largest
dairy in Nevada. In addition, there is an ostrich farm, several
organic pistachio orchards, and a ranch that grows alfalfa. Many homes
in Amargosa Valley have fruit orchards and vegetable gardens.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern plants such as pomegranate bushes
and fig trees are popular. Organic farming is the most ancient sustainable
agriculture systems.

In 1998, organic agriculture sales by Nevada farmers totaled $408,429,
representing 1.3 percent of the stateís agriculture sales. In 1999,
organic sales totaled $3.6 million ó 14.4 percent of all agriculture

Ed Goedhart is the manager of the Ponderosa dairy farm that has one of
the largest organic herds in the country and provides Nevada with 25%
of its milk.

This dairy farm is just 18 miles from Yucca Mountain. He is one of the
people referred to by the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory
Commission as "dose receptors."

Ponderosa Dairy covers more than 1,500 acres and its 6, 200 Holstein
cows, fed organically grown alfalfa, produce more than 42,000 gallons
of milk a day. The Ponderosa is the area's biggest employer, with 100
people and 700 workers in related industries statewide.

Rockview Farms, owner of the Ponderosa, and owner of the nearby Pahrump
Dairy contributed $34,849,000 to the Gross Regional Product in Nevada
in 1999, according to a study done by the Nye County Regional Waste
Repository Office. Also, these dairies made a 52% greater contribution
to the Nye County economy than the Yucca Mountain project.

"The Yucca Mountain project has a huge potential liability yet there
has been no talk of mitigation for the people who live and work here in
Amargosa Valley. The DOE is concerned about desert tortoises, putting
in dust mitigation measures, protecting the birds, but there has been no
discussion about how this project would affect local businesses,
individuals and communities.

"The whole point of an Environmental Impact Statement is not only to
address environmental issues but also the consequences as they relate
to the areaís individuals, businesses and communities, according to NEPA.
The DOE says they are doing everything according to NEPA but itís
basically a dog and pony show as far as I am concerned," Ed says.
ìTheyíre just now talking about compensating people for serious damage
that they canít deny anymore after 30 or more years and after the harm
has been proven without a shadow of a doubt. I am referring to the
compensation for workers who did their jobs at the Nevada Test Site,
and veterans who served in Vietnam and received Agent Orange.

"It seems as though the DOE is looking at the people of Nye County as
being expendable. We are perceived as just collateral casualties, or
bystanders who got caught in friendly fire because of an inadequate
attempt to solve a nuclear waste issue that wonít resolve anything.

"They have not taken into consideration this large agricultural
community that ships food to more than 30 million people in the Western
United States. How can they write off the 1,500 people who live in
Amargosa Valley and the 30 million people who buy our food products?*

"The agriculture that takes place here is directly dependent upon the
water that we use for our livestock and to irrigate our crops. They
have determined that there is water at YM and yes, the cannisters will leak.
Now they're talking about acceptable dosages. Are they going to tell our
children what is an acceptable dosage?

"The real problem is that the DOE's solution to pollution is dilution.
They don't take into account that the organic pistachios, almonds and
all of the food products that are grown in this valley would
concentrate unheard of levels of radionuclides and increase these dosages to
millions of people. Nor have they looked at the accumulated impacts on
the farming economy in Nye and Amargosa.

According to the Draft EIS, July 1999, page no. 3-75, table 3-24, there
are a total of 120 people in all of Nye County involved in agriculture,
forestry and fisheries.

"But there are many other farmers in this area besides myself. I would
estimate that the total number of people in farming alone is closer to
600 or more. If the DOE is this far off on such simple facts and
figures, how can I believe the rest of their documents when they talk
about new innovative technologies, extrapolating risk over 10,000
years, when they can't even get these facts and figures straight about who
works in agriculture in Nye county? If this is the best they can do,
then I donít have a lot of confidence.

"Besides, they have ignored our very existence.The DOE has never talked
to me and asked me any questions like how many people do you employ,
what are your future plans, what impacts will this proposed waste dump
18 miles from my doorstep have on my businesses. They've never asked
me anything. Plus, they have a 100% success record of environmental
contamination so why should I believe that this project will be any
different than the others?

"We are in the buffer zone at ground zero," he concluded.

*(Editor's Note: Ed's estimated number of people affected doesn't take
into account the more than 50 million people who live on the
transportation routes in 43 cities in close proximity to the DOE's estimated
77,000 to 109,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste that would roll
down the rails and highways across America (Six to seven shipments a day
into Yucca Mountain, according to the DOE).

Think about this. We are poised on the brink of gambling with the lives of
more than 80 million Americans when there are real solutions at hand that
can and WILL resolve the nuclear waste problem. Scientists and free energy
producers worldwide have nontoxic technologies at hand ready to bring to
consumers that will render nuclear waste nontoxic and bring nontoxic energy
generators (that will power up a home for 10-15 years using a
self-sustaining generator, the power gleaned from hydrogen, that will make
gas, electric and other sources of dirty power obsolete because we will each
have our own sources of power for our homes and businesses). I have links
and contacts / resources available for those who are interested in these

YM and other similar projects (such as Skull Valley in Utah) are not
slated, fated or destined to occur. The situation is not hopeless. We
have to ask ourselves, is YM really the legacy we want to leave our
childrenís children? We can point our fingers at the big bad government
and the nuclear power industry but ultimately, we must take
responsibility for the situation and actively support Real Solutions by
buying alternative energy products, educating others, letting our voices be
heard, attend meetings and write letters to the editors, friends,
relatives, your representatives, the President, the DOE, Energy
Secretary Abraham and the Vice President).

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