Mojave Daily News

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid blasts DOE, nuclear waste plan

Monday, August 27, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A promise of "sound science" in deciding where to bury the nation's radioactive waste has drawn fire from an influential Nevada legislator.

Spencer Abraham, U.S. Secretary of Energy, announced August 21 that a series of public hearings have been slated regarding a proposed Yucca Mountain, Nev., geological repository for nuclear waste.

The hearings announcement came with an extension of a deadline for comments on the proposal to September 20.

In the announcement, Secretary Abraham promised: "Any decision regarding a permanent repository for this nation's nuclear waste will be made based on sound science. The measures I am taking today are designed to assist me in this effort. I am committed to making sure that we arrive at the right decision for America."

U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), voiced disbelief.

"I am disappointed but not surprised by the actions taken ... by Secretary Abraham and the Department of Energy," Reid said. "Although they claim that science will serve as the basis for an open public review of this proposal, there is precious little evidence that they will really do so."

According to Abraham's announcement, the three Nevada hearings are set for:

All three begin with a "poster session" between 5 and 9 p.m.; hearings are to be held from 6 to 9 p.m.

The meetings are to be informal, Abraham said, and the DOE will use a facilitator in an effort to ensure they are fair and productive.

Fair and productive seems to be precisely what Sen. Reid is challenging. "The DOE has long since made up its mind that it is willing to manipulate the science and cast aside any veil of objectivity in their zealous pursuit of shipping deadly radioactive waste through America's heartland to Nevada," he said. "What the DOE has also failed to admit or address are the dangers inherent in shipping more than 70,000 tons of nuclear waste through our nation's cities, towns and communities."

How close any of that material might come to the Tri-state is a matter of conjecture, however. Opponents have voiced the opinion that local highways and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway could be used to transport wastes.

Abraham specifically included opponents in his announcement of the hearings. "In order to facilitate public scrutiny of the data related to the suitability of the Yucca Mountain site, the secretary is also directing the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management to send the preliminary evaluation to stake holders in the process - including opponents of the siting of a repository at Yucca Mountain - and is asking them to provide comments either as part of the written record or as part of several public hearings," the announcement read. "He is also directing that the study be sent to a number of leaders in the scientific community and is asking them to participate in the public comment process."

Replied Reid: "While the DOE insists that (hearings and extension are) designed to facilitate the public comment process, we know better. This action is mere window dressing for an issue that the department and the big nuclear polluters have long since viewed as a foregone conclusion based on the bottom line and not on the health and safety of the American people."

A DOE document entitled the "Yucca Mountain Preliminary Site Suitability Evaluation' was released at the same time the hearings were announced. Abraham called the document "additional information that is intended to facilitate public review and comment on a possible site recommendation."

A call to the Washington, D.C., offices of the Department of Energy requesting information as to where comments could be sent failed to produce a response before deadline.

A call to Nathan Naylor of Sen. Reid's office produced an intermittent cellular phone conversation containing a promise of a comment address and details on shipping routes. Neither arrived before deadline.