May 18, 1998
The Denver Post
Denver, CO 80202
I am writing in regard to your recent editorial, “Ship Out The Waste” that appeared on Tuesday, May 12, 1998. Separate and apart from the issue of creating an interim storage site for commercial spent fuel from nuclear power plants, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined unnecessary because all reactor sites have the capability to store this spent fuel in dry storage onsite safely for over 100 years, there are numerous aspects of the Murkowski legislation that are particularly obnoxious to even the most casual observer.
First, the Murkowski legislation arbitrarily sets a radiation dose standard for the Yucca Mountain site at 100 millirems to the maximally exposed individual per year. This standard was determined without any scientific input or testimony and is 25 times more lenient than the national standard for the Safe Drinking Water Act, set at 4 millirems for the same individual per year. It is four times more permissive than the standard for the WIPP facility in New Mexico for transuranic waste (much less toxic than spent nuclear fuel), set at 25 millirems. This standard also allows much greater exposures than the standard recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for Yucca Mountain, which was between 10 and 30 millirems per year. Perhaps Senator Murkowski and the Denver Post have greater knowledge of the health impacts of radiation than the National Academy of Sciences and the scientific community as a whole.
Second, this legislation directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow the Department of Energy to construct and load 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste into Yucca Mountain and operate it for 100 years without first proving that Yucca Mountain is a safe place to bury nuclear waste. The Department of Energy would have to prove the site meets all health and safety standards after it has been operating for 100 years. We, in Nevada, are supposed to believe that if, after 100 years of operation, the site cannot meet these health and safety standards, then it would all be dug up and shipped somewhere else. Perhaps your experience in dealing with the Department of Energy at the Rocky Flats plant has been so positive that you are willing to trust the DOE to run a repository for 100 years, unlicensed, based on their assurances that it will be safe, but we, in Nevada, are not.
Lastly, this legislation prohibits the courts from enjoining any part of the implementation of the program if a legal challenge is filed by Nevada or any other party, something that the third branch of government, the Judicial Branch, will undoubtably find unconstitutional. It also pre-emits state and local laws and regulation, so the City of Denver and the State of Colorado could be rendered helpless in the face of the thousands of spent fuel shipments the legislation would bring on I-70, I-76, and I-25.
So, perhaps Senator Campbell is operating on the facts after all. Perhaps the Denver Post and Senator Allard are the ones who aren’t in full possession of the facts, or simply have not taken time to actually read this legislation. Or perhaps you are all relying on the assurances of the Nuclear Power Industry. In any event, anyone with even a small amount of common sense who has taken the time to study the facts would have to conclude that this legislation is not worthy of consideration, unless of course, you are all willing to concede that, as long as these health and safety problems are occurring in Nevada and affect only Nevadans, it simply doesn’t matter.
Incidently, none of the nuclear material from the Rocky Flats plant could, by law, be stored or disposed of at the proposed interim storage facility or repository.
Robert R. Loux