The Governor's Letter

Governor's Objections to the Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Repository Siting Guidelines (10 CFR 960)


On December 17, 1996, DOE issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating a major revision to the siting guidelines for a proposed repository for civilian spent fuel and defense radioactive waste. The new guidelines being proposed address postclosure system guideline and preclosure radiological safety system guideline. For additional background see the Advisory published by the Nevada Agency For Nuclear Projects ( NWPO ) and/or DOE's proposed rule ( OCRWM )

The reminder of this page contains Governors BOB MILLER's verbatim comments on the proposed rule. The Governors comments were sent to Secretary O'Leary (DOE) on December 24, 1996 .

Capitol Complex
Carson City, Nevada 89710
(702) 687-4486
Fax: (702) 687-4486
December 24, 1996
    The Honorable Hazel O'Leary
    The Department of Energy
    Intergovernmental Affairs Office
    CI-30, Room #7B164
    1000 Independence Ave., S.W.
    Washington D.C. 20585
    Dear Secretary O'Leary;
    On Monday, December 16th, the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) of the Department of Energy published, for public comment, a proposed rule revising 10 CFR 960, General Guidelines for the Recommendation of Sites for Nuclear Waste Repositories. I am writing to express my very strong objection to this action on the following grounds.
    First, the proposed rule does not comply with the clear direction in Section 112(a) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, which requires specific factors that qualify or disqualify any site from development as a repository. It further sets out a number of technical factors which must be addressed by these qualifying and disqualifying conditions, including geology, hydrology, the location of valuable natural resources, nearby atomic energy defense activities, proximity to water supplies and effect on the rights of water users, transportation and safety factors involved in moving the waste to a repository, etc. The proposed rule violates the statute as it does not address these factors and the requisite qualifying and disqualifying conditions.
    Second, the Guideline revision substitutes, for these specific factors, a more general system analysis approach. OCRWM is proposing that, if the overall performance at Yucca Mountain can be shown to meet the yet-to-be promulgated Environmental Protection Agency radiation standards, then the site should be recommended for development as a repository. Not only does this approach violate the clear direction in the statute, but it ignores the same technical factors described above that are not capable of being evaluated in a total systems performance assessment.
    One can only assume that the Department of Energy officials believes that Yucca Mountain would be disqualified as a repository under the existing Section 112(a) guidelines. This approach appears to continue a very disturbing tradition of this program: If Yucca Mountain can't meet the safety rules - then change the rules.
    Madam Secretary, this approach is totally unacceptable, and the proposed rule should be withdrawn. This is simply too important an issue to substitute a new, subjective approach to determining the suitability of Yucca Mountain, one that is of DOE's own making, for the clear, objective approach that Congress prescribed in adopting section 112(a) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended.
    The proposed approach, if adopted, will result in legal challenge by the State of Nevada and further erode the credibility of an already controversial program. This attempt to rewrite the law to eliminate the need to consider and evaluate important factors which, if present as they appear to be, would compromise the safety of the site and of the citizens of this state far into the future, something that I, as Governor, will not allow to happen.

    Bob Miller

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