Nuclear Waste News

Vol. 21 No. 48 December 6, 2001 Page 481

Yucca Mountain

Winston & Strawn Bows Out; Leaked GAO Report Creates Furor

The Chicago-based law firm of Winston & Strawn has withdrawn from a contract with DOE for legal assistance in the department´s possible future effort to license a geologic repository for high level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

The law firm bowed out after the DOE In-spector General´s office stopped just short of con-cluding that the firm´s simultaneous representation of DOE and a leading proponent of the project, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), constituted conflict of interest (NWN, Nov. 29, p. 471).

Winston & Strawn also was a member of NEI, the Washington, D.C.-based nuclear industry policy organization that lobbied heavily for quick progress on the repository.

DOE´s general counsel now is examining the next path forward.

Lebeouf Lamb Could Get the Job

One option could be to award the contract to New York City-based Lebeouf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, another top U.S. energy law firm that has filed a lawsuit challenging DOE´s award of the original contract.

The Yucca Mountain project was also the center of a national controversy this week with the leak of a draft General Accounting Office (GAO) report that said DOE did not have the necessary scientific and technical supporting evidence to ap-ply for a license for a repository at Yucca Moun-tain. The draft urged the secretary of Energy to postpone recommending the site to the president for development of the repository.

Abraham: Report is Fatally Flawed

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the GAO report “fatally flawed” in a Nov. 30 letter to GAO Comptroller General David Walker.

“In the normal course of events, DOE would have had an opportunity to formally comment on its deficiencies, allowing GAO to correct its work product,” Abraham wrote. “Our interactions with your staff on this inquiry and the inappropriate, premature release of the draft report reinforce my concern that it was assembled to support a prede-termined conclusion.”

GAO told NWN that it would not comment or release the report and it was “unfortunate” that the report got out before the department had time to comment on the draft.

Reid Named as Source of Draft

According to a Las Vegas Sun report, the draft GAO report was sent to DOE and to members of the Nevada delegation, Sen. Harry Reid (D) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), the requestors of the re-port, on Nov. 28. It was featured in the Washington Post Nov. 30.

In a Dec. 4 letter to President George Bush, the Nevada delegation asked for a delay in a site rec-ommendation in light of the GAO report and alle-gations of conflict of interest surrounding the Winston & Strawn law firm.

Contact: Sen. Reid´s Office, (202) 224-3542;
DOE office of public affairs, (202) 586-5806.

Reprinted with permission of Nuclear Waste News.
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