August 24, 2001
Lake Barrett, Deputy Director
Department of Energy
Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
1000 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20585
Dear Mr. Barrett:
On August 21, 2001 the Department of Energy issued a notice in the Federal Register on the planned Yucca Mountain "Site Recommendation Consideration Hearings and End of Public Comment Period", together with an announcement of the availability of the Yucca Mountain Preliminary Site Suitability Evaluation (PSSE). The announcement states, on page 43851, that, " The PSSE contains a preliminary evaluation of the suitability of the Yucca mountain site for development as a geologic repository based on the Department's proposed (emphasis added) site suitability regulations, to be codified as 10 CFR 963." Since the Department has an existing set of site suitability regulations, codified as 10 CFR 960, please explain why the Department of Energy is not evaluating the Yucca Mountain site under those regulations, and providing the public the opportunity to see the Department's evaluation of the site under those regulations.
We find that basing an evaluation of the Yucca Mountain site on proposed regulations, when there are existing regulations that have gone through the public notice and comment process and have been codified since 1984, is unethical and violates not only the Administrative Procedures Act, but also the public trust that this program is supposed to engender. Nevada is, therefore, insisting that the Department immediately suspend the current notice that is in the Federal Register, conduct an evaluation of the Yucca Mountain site under the 10 CFR 960 guidelines, and publish the results of that evaluation in the Federal Register for public review and comment.
The only possible reason why the Department would not conduct an evaluation of the Yucca Mountain site's suitability under the existing site suitability guidelines is that such an evaluation would almost certainly disqualify the site from further consideration. Changing regulations for the Yucca Mountain site at the eleventh hour not only violates the public trust, but it also shows the lengths to which the Department is prepared to go in attempting to salvage a project that, under any truly objective and scientific criteria, would have long since been abandoned. It is this type of manipulative and duplicitous action that continues to undermine the efforts of this country to find a credible and workable solution to the nuclear waste problem.
It is wholly unacceptable for DOE to utilize a set of proposed site suitability regulations that have no legal or substantive basis as the vehicle for evaluating the Yucca Mountain site. This action only serves to reinforce the perception that DOE's sole concern is to support its predetermined and technically flawed conclusions about the site's suitability while reflecting DOE's willingness to cast fairness and objectivity aside in its single-minded attempt to make Yucca Mountain work at any cost. I urge you to reconsider this course of action and, instead, commit to evaluating the site against the existing regulations.
Robert R. Loux
Nevada Congressional Delegation
Commission On Nuclear Projects