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June 30, 1999

The Honorable Bill Richardson
Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20585

Dear Secretary Richardson:

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to approve a modified version of S.608, a bill that would amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. 1 would like to thank you for your efforts in convincing the Committee that the original S.608 proposal to establish an interim storage facility for spent fuel at the Nevada Test Site should be deleted and replaced with a provision for temporary at-reactor storage of the fuel under the auspices of the federal government, as you proposed.

As important as the elimination of the plan for interim storage in Nevada was, the modified bill still contains provisions that threaten the integrity of DOE's high-level radioactive waste management program and put present and future generations of Nevadans at substantial risk. In particular, stripping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of authority to set standards for radiation exposures form Yucca Mountain activities is of grave concern to Nevadans.

It is not Nevada's wish or intent to become involved in a jurisdictional dispute between federal agencies. However, exempting Yucca Mountain from EPA regulations and substituting a watered down Nuclear Regulatory Commission role in determining permissible radiation exposures, as the revised S.608 will do, creates a situation where Nevadans are singled out and afforded less protection than citizens in any other state. That is simply unfair and wrong.

Under the provisions of the modified Senate bill, for example, Yucca Mountain will be held to a much more lenient standard of public protection than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in your home state of New Mexico. This despite the fact that the spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to be disposed of at Yucca Mountain are much more dangerous and more highly radioactive than the transuranic wastes at WIPP. Such differential and discriminatory regulatory practices make no sense and serve only to reinforce the perception that politics, not science, is the driving force behind decisions regarding Yucca Mountain. Nevadans deserve at least the same level of protection as citizens of New Mexico and other states.

I urge you and the Administration to continue to strongly oppose efforts by Congress to create a separate and unequal regulatory regime governing radiation exposures from a Yucca Mountain repository.


Kenny C. Guinn

cc: Senator Murkowski