Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. S.W.
Dear Secretary Abraham:
I am writing to express my deep concerns regarding the retainment of Winston & Strawn by the Office Of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management to represent the Department of Energy (DOE) in the preparation of DOE's license application for the proposed Yucca Mountain site and requisite proceedings before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
As you know, Winston & Strawn has been legal counsel to the former Yucca Mountain prime contractor, TRW, and has been preparing and perfecting various scientific studies and analysis for the proposed site since 1992. It has now come to our attention that since 1992, Winston & Strawn has been a registered lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the major lobbying arm for the nuclear energy industry. We understand Winston & Strawn has been engaged by NEI as a lobbyist on major nuclear issues including the proposed interim storage initiatives introduced in Congress over the past several sessions, and the recently released Environmental Protection Agency's radiation standards for the proposed site which are currently being challenged by Nevada in the federal district court. The lead lobbyist for Winston & Strawn on these controversial issues, James Curtiss, is identified as the attorney for the Winston & Strawn multi-million dollar contract with DOE pertaining to the potential Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding before the NRC.
This situation presents serious issues concerning conflict of interest and possible bias in the site evaluation process. These facts are very disturbing in light of the recent DOE Inspector General's Report of Inquiry (Report). Not only did the Inspector General conclude there was no bias on the part of DOE or its contractors which would compromise the integrity of the site evaluation process, it reached this conclusion while the relationship between Winston & Strawn and DOE was ongoing, and while Winston & Strawn was engaged by NEI in lobbying efforts related to the proposed site. In light of these circumstances, it is important to review the Inspector General's recommendations, which state:
[A]s the Department moves forward with the evaluation process, including the preparation and issuance of any new documents, we believe that the Department's seniors managers should take the opportunity to: (1) re-affirm the commitment to a site suitability evaluation process which is objective, unbiased and based on the best possible science; and (2) review its internal and contractor processes to ensure that this objective is faithfully executed.
Report of Inquiry, Yucca Mountain Project, April 23, 2001.
You reiterated this recommendation in a press statement following the release, concluding "we must ensure that our work does not even raise the perception of possible bias."
The nexus between DOE's law firm and the lobbying arm of the nuclear industry calls into serious question the objectivity of post 1992 studies, analysis and conclusions by DOE concerning the proposed site. It is fair to say these circumstances have resulted in the production of tainted data by DOE since at least 1992 regarding site evaluation and suitability. Moreover, Winston & Strawn, cannot be deemed "independent" under the NRC's licensing rules, hence are unqualified to represent the DOE in any proceeding pertaining to the proposed site.
As I am sure you understand, this situation seriously compromises the integrity of the evaluation on the suitability of Yucca Mountain, and erodes public confidence in DOE's evaluation of Yucca Mountain as the Nation's high-level nuclear waste repository. Program. I believe this situation warrants an immediate halt to the site evaluation and suitability process pending a complete and independent investigation external to DOE of the entire program. It might be that such a review will conclude DOE's entire program has been so prejudiced that any further consideration of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository must come to an end.
Given these grave circumstances, I believe this matter warrants your immediate attention, and I look forward to your judicious response.
KENNY C. GUINN