STATEMENT OF ROBERT R. LOUX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
NEVADA AGENCY FOR NUCLEAR PROJECTS
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
OFFICE OF CIVILIAN RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT
REGARDING THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
FOR A GEOLOGIC REPOSITORY FOR THE DISPOSAL OF SPENT
NUCLEAR FUEL AND HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE AT YUCCA MOUNTAIN, NYE COUNTY, NEVADA
PRESENTED AT THE PUBLIC HEARING
IN RENO, NEVADA
DECEMBER 2, 1999
Since the inception of the federal high-level radioactive waste program in 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) work with respect to the candidate Yucca Mountain repository site has been characterized by bias and inappropriately favorable interpretations of data that mask serious and even fatal flaws present at the site and within the federal program as a whole. The State of Nevada's review of this draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) indicates that the document continues this pattern. The State believes the draft EIS to be legally and substantively deficient. Among other deficiencies:
The draft EIS does not contain an accurate or adequate description of the project;
It postulates a "no action" alternative that is entirely unrealistic and unreasonable;
It fails to adequately evaluate the health, safety, and environmental impacts of a program that will intentionally - as part of the so-called waste isolation strategy - contaminate a groundwater source that is currently, and will be in the future, used by people for drinking, food production, and other needs;
It fails to adequately assess cumulative impacts from past, current, and future activities at the Nevada Test Site (NTS);
It completely ignores the potential for major and widespread socioeconomic impacts from the project, both in Nevada and in cities and communities throughout the nation; and
It fails to identify spent fuel and high-level waste shipping modes and routes in a way that permits people in affected communities to participate in the review and public comment process.
Asserting that the design for a Yucca Mountain facility is still "evolving", DOE describes a number of design alternatives and options in the draft EIS with the expectation that whatever design is finally selected, its impacts will have been bounded by the analysis of the alternatives and options. The range of possible impacts is wide, and they all lead to releases of radionuclides from the repository that contaminate a groundwater source that is currently used for drinking water and agricultural purposes. Because the description of the project in the draft EIS is an ever moving and changing target, it is not possible to adequately assess the future risks of the proposed repository to people and the environment.
With respect to the "no action" alternative contained in the draft EIS, DOE has chosen two "no action" scenarios that are unrealistic, unreasonable, and legally deficient. The document postulates a situation where, in the place of a repository at Yucca Mountain, spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes are assumed to be stored on-site at reactor and generator locations for a period of 10,000 years. In the first "no action" scenario, DOE assumes that active institutional control is maintained for the entire time, while under the second scenario, institutional control ceases after the first 100 years.
Both scenarios are wholly inappropriate. In the absence of a repository, it is absurd to assume that spent fuel and HLW would simply be left at reactor sites forever. The most plausible "no action" scenario is one where there would be some period (100 years or so) of at-reactor storage (most likely in dry storage configurations), combined with the application of waste reduction technologies, and followed by some form of revised (and, hopefully, dramatically improved and equitable) process to site and construct storage and/or disposal facilities.
What DOE appears to have done is select scenarios designed to generate the greatest public alarm and political pressure in favor of its proposed action. In so doing, DOE has violated the clear intent of NEPA that a realistic and reasonable "no action" alternative be evaluated and compared to the proposed action.
The State of Nevada also believes that the Yucca Mountain "project," as set forth in the draft EIS and subsequent DOE design documents violates the clear intent of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 that disposal of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste be accomplished by means of geologic disposal. The "evolving" facility design relies almost exclusively on engineered barriers, including a 750,000 year waste package, over 100 miles of titanium drip shields, and other engineering fixes to compensate for the serious inadequacies of the site and to make the facility work. The draft EIS thereby implicitly acknowledges that Yucca Mountain, as a geologic formation, is incapable of isolating highly radioactive and long-lived wastes from the environment. What is left is an engineered storage facility that was clearly not envisioned by the 1982 Act.
The draft EIS inexcusably ignores a robust and extensive body of research produced by the State of Nevada, by independent researchers, and even by DOE contractors that clearly demonstrates the socioeconomic risks and potential impacts associated with a repository and related spent fuel and high-level waste transportation. Such research has documented the potential for substantial and sustained impacts to Nevada's visitor-dependent economy should the Yucca Mountain project go forward. The draft EIS ignores these findings and does not consider the economic consequences to cities and communities either within Nevada or along transportation corridors nationwide.
In addition to our testimony at these hearings, the State of Nevada will be submitting extensive written comments on this draft EIS. It is our hope that these comments and those of all others will be seriously considered, and that a reasonable "no action" alternative (as opposed to the unreasonable and unrealistic ones contained in the draft document) is selected as the preferred action in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.