Desert Earthquake Hits Near Yucca Mountain;
No Injuries or Damage Reported

June 14, 2002
By Ken Ritter Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A mild earthquake rumbled beneath the desert early Friday near Yucca Mountain, the federal government's proposed site for a nuclear waste repository.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.4 and hit about 5:40 a.m., 75 miles northwest of Las Vegas and about 3 miles beneath the surface, said scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.

Allen Benson, a federal Department of Energy spokesman for the Yucca Mountain project in Las Vegas, told The Associated Press that about 100 scientists and employees at the site on Friday were not reporting any damage.

Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the site that President Bush picked in February to store the nation's spent commercial, industrial and military nuclear waste beginning in 2010.

Benson said that while operations have been scaled back since February, employees and scientists are continuing to monitor scientific studies and a five-mile tunnel bored about 1,000 feet beneath the volcanic ridge.

Nevada opposes the Yucca Mountain project, and Congress is debating whether to override Gov. Kenny Guinn's April veto of the presidential selection.

President Bush in February approved building a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, saying 20 years of study had found the ridge of volcanic rock to be a safe place to store nuclear material.

Opponents of the project have cited the possibility of earthquakes as one reason to reject Yucca Mountain as the site.

The waste, expected to remain radioactive for more than 10,000 years, would be buried 1,000 feet below ground. The Energy Department has said the earliest the Yucca facility could open is 2010.

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Below you will find the government's response:

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 14, 2002
News Media Contact: Allen Benson, 702/794-1322

Yucca Mountain Project Office Statement on Nevada Earthquake Report
June 14, 2002

Las Vegas, NV — The following statement was released by the Yucca Mountain Project Office today following news reports of an earthquake in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain:

There was not an earthquake at Yucca Mountain today. There was a "light" earthquake located at Little Skull Mountain, Nevada, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey early this morning. According to the USGS, the quake's epicenter was located approximately 15 miles to the east of Yucca Mountain. This is a known and studied geologic zone.

There was no damage to any Yucca Mountain Project facilities, structures or the underground Exploratory Studies Facilities. And, the public tour of Yucca Mountain scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 15th will occur.

The 24 years of scientific studies at Yucca Mountain have taken an exhaustive look at the possibility of earthquakes. In fact, Yucca Mountain scientists have used earthquakes greater in magnitude than this morning's quake to study and design a nuclear waste repository. Yucca Mountain repository designs could withstand a local earthquake with 1,000 times more energy than the one reported this morning and a regional earthquake with 30,000 times more energy than the one reported this morning.

All the scientific studies show that an underground repository at Yucca Mountain would perform safely in accordance with regulatory standards, including during an earthquake.

In 1992, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake occurred in the same vicinity. The energy released by that earthquake was approximately 30 times greater than this morning's earthquake; even so, the 1992 earthquake did not even dislodge boulders located on the slopes of Yucca Mountain.

If felt, the vibrations of an earthquake like the one reported this morning are similar to those felt when a truck passes.

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