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Nuclear industry inevitably produces nuclear waste, whose prudent, prompt and economic disposal is important to the national welfare. Technological problems of containment and isolation have apparently been solved. Underground or "geologic" disposal sites have the potential for permanent isolation, with salt, basalt, granite, shale, and tuff currently receiving principal attention as repository host rocks. Bedded salt deposits may offer the principal mechanical advantages, but in the northwestern United States the abundance of basalt at existing test sites has made it the subject of experimentation. However, psychological, political, and allegedly environmental obstructionism have stalled the process and virtually immobilized current construction.
A program is suggested with the purpose of satisfying technical requirements for public protection while allaying the exaggerated fears of anti-nuclear factions. These include seven points.
1. Minimum population density in site area-fewer than two persons per square mile.
2. Avoidance of areas of crop cultivation, or specialized industrial use.
3. Avoidance of areas of known seismicity or earthquake activity.
4. Avoidance of topographic heights or drainage lows.
5. Subsurface cover of at least 1,500 ft (457 m) for high-level wastes, and at least 150 ft (46 m) for statutorially defined low-level wastes, these depths to be exceeded wherever practical to obtain optimum repository conditions.
6. Avoidance of zones of active flow of subsurface waters, or waters having surface outlets.
7. Design and construction to serve as possible sources of artificial geothermal energy.
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