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Nuclear Energy Information Service
P.O. Box 1637, Evanston, IL 60204-1637
Phone 847.869.7650 Fax 847.869-7658


For Immediate release                                            Contact:  David A. Kraft, Director, 847-869-7650
Thursday, January 10, 2002, 5:00 p.m.


EVANSTON-- "Political opportunism" is how Illinois' nuclear power watchdog organization characterizes Dept. of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's letter recommending that Yucca Mt., Nevada, host the nation's first "high-level" radioactive waste perpetual storage facility.
 "DOE's irresponsible decision to recommend Yucca Mt. as a repository for 70,000 tons of ‘high- level' radioactive wastes (HLRW) is unconscionable, but expected, given who made it," asserts David A. Kraft, director for the Evanston-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, Illinois' nuclear power watchdog organization.  "It proves again that DOE and the Bush Administration have little concern for public safety or the scientific process if either of these inconvenience their friends in the nuclear industry.  It's politics and profits over people once again," Kraft states.
 In his letter to Gov. Guinn of Nevada, Secretary Abraham claims that "the science behind this project is sound and the site is technically suitable."  He further listed four rationalizations to justify his recommendation:  national security; consolidation of nuclear wastes; continuation of the nuclear power industry; and environmental protection.  Interestingly, although the High-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1982 was written to find a solution to the Nation's growing commercial HLRW problem, Abraham's Rationalization 1 and 4 deal with nuclear weapons issues, secondary points in the original Act; while continuation of the nuclear power industry was never part of the DOE's official mandate.
 "We should expect that ‘rationalizations' are all the public will receive from an appointed political hack who twice as Senator called for the abolition of the DOE.  Failing in that mission, Abraham now uses the DOE to achieve politically corrupt ends.  The man, the agency and the process have all been out of control for so long, no other outcome could be expected," Kraft observes.
 NEIS takes strong exception to Secretary Abraham's rationalizations:

ABRAHAM: "We should consolidate the nuclear wastes to enhance protection against terrorists attacks by moving them to one underground location that is far from population centers.

NEIS Response:  Yucca Mt. will do little to consolidate wastes as long as reactors are allowed to operate and produce new wastes that will continue filling the space vacated by removing the old waste.  Reactors must by regulation provide an operating spent fuel pool, or be shut down; therefore Yucca will not result in the closure of any reactor spent fuel pools until the reactors themselves are finally closed, and maybe not even then if Exelon's Zion Station is a representative example.  It will add an additional nuclear waste dump to the region which also hosts the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States -- Las Vegas.  And one more large-scale, consolidated target for terrorists.
 Further, the transportation of HLRW on our roads and highways will provide plenty of other opportunities for accidents or terrorist assaults to occur near population centers.  DOE revealed in February, 2000, that Illinois alone could expect to receive as many as 36,300 truck shipments of HLRW over a 24 year period once Yucca Mt. was established.  This is nearly a 20-fold increase in waste shipment frequency.

ABRAHAM:  "We must advance our non-proliferation goals by providing a secure place to dispose of any spent fuel and other waste products that result from decommissioning unneeded nuclear weapons, and ensure the effective operations of our nuclear Navy by providing a secure place to dispose of its spent nuclear fuel."

NEIS RESPONSE:  This absurdity comes from an Administration spokesperson scarcely one day after its announcement that some decommissioned warheads will not be "recycled," but stored; and after hinting at the possibility of resuming nuclear weapons testing.  Internationally, this Administration's handling of nuclear weapons policy has done everything possible to restart the next nuclear arms race.  Abraham's putative non-proliferation concerns seem a bit misplaced, and dwarfed by reality.

ABRAHAM:  "...the science behind this project is sound and that the site is technically suitable for
this purpose."

NEIS RESPONSE:  The lengthy, costly Yucca Mt. examination process has revealed significant problems.  Each time these emerged, DOE changed the siting guidelines so the site could continue to be a viable candidate.  Even the government's own GAO stated as late as November that a site recommendation at this time is premature.
 Five major unresolved issues question Yucca Mt.'s viability:

So much for an arid, isolated, geologic location; so much for sound science.
 "DOE, and its partner agency, the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), clearly are no longer credible entities," maintain's NEIS' Kraft.  "They lack independence from the nuclear industry; they bend even their own regulations to cater to the wishes of the nuclear industry, while scoffing at public input, when they it allow it at all.  Their operating history and record over the past 20 years clearly show them to be rogue agencies no longer capable of acting in behalf of the health and safety of the public or the environment," Kraft asserts.
 "Their contempt for the public will soon be challenged in the three lawsuits planned by the state of Nevada and others who have fought against this flawed, corrupt process, and who have tried for years to get Congress to force DOE and NRC to act in a responsible manner.
 "And with this being an election year, Congress had better start paying attention to public input as well," Kraft noted.
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Dave Kraft
(847)869-7650; -7658 fax
P.O. Box 1637
Evanston, IL  60204-1637