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January 1997 Issue
The Geographical Review
January 1997, Vol. 87 (1), pp. 73-91
Landscape Permanence and Nuclear Warnings
Martin J. Pasqualetti
From the perspective of a human lifetime, the hazards of some nuclear wastes are permanent, so the warnings we place at contaminated nuclear sites must be permanent too. I address questions of how best to provide one hundred centuries of public warning at the first facility for permanent disposal, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. Scenarios of intrusion developed to guide the design of warning markers predicted that most of the changes in the area will be social and cultural. Because blatant and permanent markers will increase, not reduce, the probabilty of inadvertent intrusion, the most appropriate warning is a "landscape of illusion." Such a landscape needs not permanent surface markers but underground warning devices beneath a soft surface marker. No warning can guarantee deterrence for 10,000 years, however.
Dr. PASQUALETTI is a professor geography at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-0104.
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