Digging a Hole So Deep...

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the state of Nevada's case against building a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a site about 90 miles northwest-ish of Las Vegas. (The court has posted a PDF version of the 100-page decision.) In its findings, however, the court also vacated the EPA's proposed radiation emission standards, designed to protect the public (described as "reasonably maximally exposed individual[s]") from no more than 15 millrems a year of radiation in a 300 km2 area around the repository for the next 10,000 years. The EPA will now have to come up with radiation safety standards which see much further into the future; the National Resources Defense Council notes the isotopes slated to be stored at Yucca Mountain will be at their highest radiation levels for up to 300,000 years, and many will be active for more than 1 million years. There are currently about 80,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste in the United States, largely spent fuel rods from nuclear power generation.

Just look at those numbers. Ten thousand years. Three hundred thousand years.

Ten thousand years ago, archaeologists and anthropologists believe some humans were beginning to domesticate plants and animals, develop polished stone tools, and live in settled communities. As yet there was no wheel, no bronze, and no writing, but clay pottery may not have been far off.

Three hundred thousand years ago, homo sapiens was probably co-existent with - and largely indistinguishable from - homo erectus.

And we expect the EPA to come up with radiation emision standards spanning those lengths of time?

Do we have any conception of how dark, unbounded, and deep that time is?