News from
Governor Bob Miller
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 1998
CONTACT; Richard Urey
(702) 687-5670 Carson City

DEPT OF ENERGY ORDERS FREEZE ON NEVADA'S OVERSIGHT OF YUCCA MOUNTAIN PROJECT
DOE Alleges State Oversight Agency Spent Federal Dollars "Improperly" On Public Information About the Nuclear Dump Project

Dept. of Energy officials have ordered that the Nevada Nuclear Waste Projects Office (NNWPO) not spend $691,000 of money budgeted to oversee the DOE's nuclear dump study at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The budget freeze cripples the State's scientific oversight ability, as the NNWPO's current funding totals slightly under $800,000. The $691,000 reduction in available funding leaves the NNWPO with resources sufficient to operate for a period of less than approximately two months. NNWPO has played the key oversight role of the Yucca Mountain project since 1983.

NNWPO Executive Director Bob Loux has been notified that a DOE audit review has concluded it was "improper" for the agency to share public information with citizens of other states about scientific findings which show Yucca Mountain is an unsafe location to dump high level nuclear waste, and to tell other states that thousands of shipments of the dangerous waste would pass through their communities. The DOE reviewed an earlier audit performed by the federal government's General Accounting Office.

"The DOE is playing fast and loose with the word 'improper,'" said Gov. Miller. "Our state agency did nothing more that disseminate information that the public has right to know, both in Nevada and in other states. There is absolutely no allegation that the agency misappropriated even a nickel, or that any money is missing or used for personal gain. This is merely a part of an ongoing effort to stifle Nevada's ability to oversee the Yucca Mountain project and inform the public."

The GAO audit of NNWPO was requested by Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas). Mr. Barton is an advocate of building a nuclear waste dump in Nevada, and in recent years he has used his position as chairman of the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight to strip NNWPO of funding proposed in the President's budget. A watchdog national public interest group, Public Citizen' issued a report in October, 1997 titled, "The Nuclear Industry. A Cash Cow For Congress." The report showed Mr. Barton received more than $89,000 in political contributions from the nuclear industry.

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"The House Commerce Committee has systematically attempted to shut down Nevada's ability to oversee the Yucca Mountain Project, even though Federal law requires that funding be provided for this critical mission" said the Governor. "The law provides that NNWPO is authorized to monitor, test, and evaluate the Yucca Mountain project with respect to potential impacts on Nevada's economic, social, public health and safety, and environmental conditions. The questioned expenditures in the GAO report equal less than one percent of the federal funding provided to NNWPO for its oversight responsibilities since the agency's inception."

DOE has spent approximately $3 billion on the nuclear dump siting project at Yucca Mountain. Scientific research shows that Yucca Mountain is failing to meet the standards required for a nuclear dump Strong evidence has been found that the mountain is beset with earthquake, volcanic and underground flood conditions. "The nuclear industry and the members of Congress it supports arc frustrated at these dire scientific findings," said Gov. Miller. "Their vision of dumping on Nevada is fading in frustration, they are using budget tactics to kill oversight of the project," said Gov. Miller.

The Governor pointed out that the nuclear industry has spent many millions of dollars in advertising across the country to gain support for a high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada. Earlier this decade, the industry spent at least $7 million to try to convince Nevadans to accept the dump. The effort was abandoned in failure, "The nuclear industry has maintained a massive advertising campaign in support of dumping in Nevada, without regard to scientific research that shows the dangers There is no comparison between the huge costs of that effort and the relatively minuscule amount of so-called improper expenses of Nevada's oversight agency to inform Americans about the Yucca Mountain project."

The nuclear industry portrays Nevada as an uninhabited wasteland, "the perfect place for nuclear waste." Newspaper, television, and radio blitzes have been used by the industry to spread this misinformation to residents of major cities in the East and the Midwest.

The GAO and DOE claim that NNWPO is prohibited from disseminating Public information outside the state of Nevada. NNWPO chief Loux contends the law does not limit such dissemination. The audit of the agency concluded that NNWPO should not have shared information with out-of-state news outlets, visited cities along the DOE's designated nuclear waste shipping routes, or have produced an educational videotape about Yucca Mountain.

Following the DOE's freeze on NNWPO's finding and Congress's earlier cut-off of sustained funding for the agency, Loux indicated he will seek stopgap funding from the Nevada Legislature's Interim Finance Committee. Gov. Miller said, "I support this effort to keep this vital agency operating for the next year, and I know that our congressional delegation is preparing a strong case for renewed finding in next year's Federal budget."

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