Clark County Seal

Clark County, Nevada
City of Las Vegas

City of Las Vegas Seal

Board of County Commissioners
500 S Grand Central Parkway
P O Box 551111
Lab Vegas, NV 891351111
(702) 4553500 FAX(702)383-6041

City of Las Vegas
400 Stewart Maw
Las Vegas, NV 89101-2986
(702) 229-6241 FAX: (702) 385-7960

January 14, 2002

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

This letter is to state our unequivocal opposition to the Secretary of Energy's premature decision to forward to you a recommendation in favor of Yucca Mountain as an appropriate site for the nation's only high-level nuclear waste repository. We are outraged at the inappropriate timing of this recommendation, which comes with so many critical questions left unanswered. It is beyond our comprehension that three days after his only visit to Yucca Mountain, lasting about one hour, the Secretary was able to reach his decision. We find his recent assertions that his mind was not already made up as dishonest and deceitful as the way the Department of Energy (DOE) has handled this project for the last 20 years.

By his actions, the Secretary of Energy confirmed what we have suspected all along: He has little interest in a scientific decision on Yucca Mountain. Panels of experts and experienced scientists have provided more than enough information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of a repository that Undersecretary Card recently characterized as "hypothetical" in his response to the General Accounting Office report issued last month. How the DOE can "spin" gaps and flaws in their technical, procedural and legal requirements into a "hypothetical" situation flies in the face of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, NEPA, as well as the mandate from Congress in this matter.

Mr. President, it is not right to approve a "hypothetical" repository for which "hypothetical" storage casks have never been built or tested, based on "hypothetical" plans that will affect future generations for not hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of years.

The National Research Council, International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and the General Accounting Office have all found that it would be premature for the DOE to recommend Yucca Mountain as an appropriate repository site on the basis of scientific knowledge at this time. Despite these recommendations, the DOE blindly continues to press on with its ill-conceived program, without regard to any of the identified environmental and geologic limitations, or the threats and impacts identified by the State of Nevada and other affected units of government. It is unconscionable that the Secretary would move forward with a decision without having completed sufficient studies related to water, volcanic activity, and earthquakes.

We consider it at a minimum unethical, and perhaps illegal, to dismiss requests for consideration of transportation and terrorism in a Final Environmental Impact Statement. Further, we are certain that it is without precedent that a project with such widespread and long-term environmental impact would move forward without the benefit of the public release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. We have received no assurances that the DOE has even considered our concerns regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, What has happened to the 14,800 comments received by the DOE? We have never had a response from the DOE, nor have any of the other commentors.

Beyond the technical flaws, inconsistencies, and incomplete answers, we have yet to receive an acknowledgment from the DOE that it appropriately considered the impacts to our communities. The DOE has never properly considered such impacts, including health, safety, property values, tourism impacts, and job losses. Threats to our health, safety and our economy are of paramount importance to us. Our extensive studies tell us that a serious nuclear waste related accident in our area would result in long-term damage to our communities, from which recovery would be difficult, if not impossible.

A complete analysis of transportation risks, including risk of terrorist activity along transportation routes, is being ignored. Secretary Abraham asserts that the recommendation of Yucca Mountain as the nuclear waste repository is in our best national security interest. However, this assertion does not consider the 100,000 shipments of nuclear waste as new terrorist targets, and it does not consider the more than 100 nuclear power plants in almost 40 states that will continue to be terrorist targets. The proposed repository will only serve to add one more attractive target for such attacks. Further, the DOE now proposes to ship much younger, and thus more dangerous fuel, throughout its shipping campaign, This compounds the risks already inherent in transporting waste from multiple locations across the country to one central location.

Public safety and emergency preparedness costs add up to over $1 billion for local governments in Southern Nevada alone. Property value diminution along transportation routes could reach as high as $8.7 billion. None of this seems to matter to the DOE, but it matters a great deal to the residents of Southern Nevada. Whether current or future generations of Nevadans experience the same health effects as former Nevada Test Site workers may not be of concern to Secretary Abraham, but it is of grave concern to us.

One 10-year-old in our community feels so strongly opposed that she collected signatures at school on a petition against the proposed repository project. Other children express concern to their parents about being robbed of the opportunity to grow up and to have healthy children of their own due to what they perceive as the serious health risks associated with the proposed repository. An overwhelming majority of Nevada residents are on record as being opposed to the Yucca Mountain Project.

Mr. President, the citizens of Nevada and the nation owe you a debt of gratitude for your leadership and strong response to international terrorism. Right now, your leadership is also needed to protect the safety and security of Nevadans and to restore integrity and public confidence in what has been a deeply flawed process. Politics has been the name of the game from the beginning, and the State of Nevada has never had a fair chance in defending itself against the DOE's preconceived intentions. You, Mr. President, have the ability to follow through on your promise to allow science, not politics, to drive this process. Therefore, we respectfully request that you simply reject Secretary Abraham's recommendation.


Dario Herrera, Chair
Clark County Commission

Oscar B. Goodman, Mayor
City of Las Vegas