Tunnel Vision

The long walk to a nuclear-waste storage facility

Tunnel Vision

Karoly Arvai (See it bigger!)

At the end of this tunnel, which snakes as deep as 820 feet below the Hungarian countryside, lies a new long-term nuclear-waste facility, set to open in 2010. Located on the outskirts of the village of Bátaapáti, it will store more than 10.5 million gallons of low- and intermediate-level waste produced at the Paks nuclear power plant, which is 40 miles away. The waste consists of protective clothing and contaminated tools and materials from processing. It collectively accounts for 97 percent of the volume of radioactive waste from the plant. (The high-level waste, including spent fuel rods, is stored at the power plant.) After several hundred years, its radioactivity should decay to the level of the planet's natural background radiation.