Early Warning: How to Alert Earthlings of Yucca’s Waste

Monday, February 10th, 2003

I read about this almost a decade ago. How do you design a warning that will still have meaning thousands of years from now? Early Warning: How to Alert Earthlings of Yucca’s Waste explains the issue:

Last summer, Congress approved Yucca Mountain as America’s first permanent repository for high-level radioactive waste. But before the nation’s spent nuclear fuel can be hauled for burial under the 5,000-foot ridge, regulators have ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to design a system of markers and monuments meant to ward off intruders from the site through the year 12,000. Anyone speak Martian?

The world’s oldest stone monument — the Step Pyramid in Egypt — is just 4,000 years old. The oldest known writings — in Sanskrit — date back 5,000 to 7,000 years. Yet to satisfy the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing requirements, Yucca Mountain officials are supposed to devise warnings and safety barriers that will long outlast today’s most ancient relics of civilization.

Would giant skulls with radiation symbols emblazoned on them just attract the teenagers of the 25th century?

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