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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:

When the Department of Energy carried out the scoping process for the proposed Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement in the fall of 1995, DOE committed to providing 180 days for public review and comment. DOE staff who conducted scoping meetings around the country pointed to the planned six-month public comment period as evidence that DOE would give adequate attention to public input in light of the extraordinarily complex and first-of-a-kind Yucca Mountain project.

Last month, the State of Nevada and affected local governments were informed by the Acting Director for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste (OCRWM that DOE now plans to limit the draft EIS public comment period to just 90 days. Mr. Barrett cites as justification for the shorter comment time the fact that the draft EIS will be available in electronic format and on the Internet and that DOE plans to hold a series of 13 public hearings in Nevada and nationally.

By the time the draft document is released, DOE will have been working on it for over four years. The draft EIS will be an extremely complex, multiple volume document, with links to almost all areas of DOE's Yucca Mountain activities and extensive list of references containing information important to evaluating findings and conclusions in the draft itself. The EIS document alone is expected to be close to 1,000 very technical pages none of which has been made available in advance of the release of the draft. It is unrealistic to expect affected parties and the public to adequately review these materials and render informed comments in as short a time period as is currently envisioned.

As you are aware, the draft Yucca Mountain EIS is not an ordinary or routine NEPA exercise. It represents the first time any federal agency will have attempted to account for the impacts and consequences of deep geologic disposal of spent fuel and needed to support such disposal. DOE has been formally conducting studies and carrying out other work at Yucca Mountain since 1983. The lifetime of a geologic repository for spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste is well over 10,000 years. Put into this context, it certainly does not seem unreasonable to provide an additional 90 days for public input.

In the past, DOE has been accused of allowing schedule pressures and arbitrary project deadlines to drive important decisions about science and scientific activities associated with Yucca Mountain site investigations. I am very concerned that OCRWM's insistence on shortening the comment period for the draft EIS may be based on the perceived need to make up EIS schedule slippage rather than on the imperatives for adequate and meaningful public review of this crucial decision document.

I am, therefore, formally requesting, on behalf of the State of Nevada, that you review OCRWM's decision to limit the draft EIS comment period to 90 days and reinstate DOE's commitment of 1995 to provide a full 180 days for public comments on this important document.


Kenny C. Guinn