March 28, 2002
To: The Editor
Response to One Safe Site Is Best By Spencer Abraham, March 27, 2002
The editorial by the Secretary of Energy, reprinted from the Washington Post in the March 27 issue of the Review Journal was outrageous and clearly shows the fraud that has been perpetrated on the citizens of this nation, particularly Nevadans, by this administration and its Department of Energy. How can anyone possibly believe that the decision to recommend Yucca Mountain resulted from an objective scientific study when the decision maker himself states that the facility is "critical" for both national security and energy security, which in the Secretary's mind means nuclear power. He also states that Yucca Mountain is "essential" for homeland security. So it appears that, science be damned, if Yucca Mountain goes down, we are doomed. Why submit a license application and play out the process with the "independent experts at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who will objectively and scientifically decide whether to approve construction of the repository?" Would the NRC buck the administration, the commercial nuclear industry and stand accused of threatening national, energy and homeland security? Not likely.
The Secretary claims that after all of the analysis, scientists concluded that Yucca Mountain would be safe and will meet the radiation release standards for 10,000 years. According to the DOE documents, that happens only if the metal containers holding the waste inside Yucca Mountain resist corrosion and degradation for 10,000 years. When the containers go, radiation heads for the accessible environment. Independent scientists and the DOE agree that it is not if the site will leak, but when. To say that Yucca Mountain alone isolates waste is a great deception as is the statement that even if a volcano hit the repository, there would be no dangerous radiation release. In fact, if a volcano occurred, there would be immediately lethal doses to the people of Amargosa Valley and dangerous levels of radiation carried by the wind. "Safety" is provided by DOE's tricky math that reduces the doses by the probability of the occurrence. An example of this sort of logic is that if a person is directly hit by a meteor they would not be killed but only get a little scratch because it is so unlikely that it would happen.
Terrorists may well attack commercial nuclear power plants as the Secretary suggests. The debate rages regarding the safety of those facilities. It is not a scare tactic to say that there are additional risks posed by placing highly radioactive waste on the nation's roads, rails and waterways. Wasn't it this same Secretary of Energy who stopped all shipments of nuclear materials after the attacks on September 11? Much of the cargo involved in that decision was only slightly radioactive and represented a much smaller danger to the public than irradiated fuel.
Secretary Abraham states that those of us who oppose Yucca Mountain have "the vain hope a miracle will occur and this problem will just go away." Not so. We know that it won't go away and that Yucca Mountain is not the "solution" to the nuclear waste problem. It appears that the Secretary is still mired in deceptive mathematics. How does the problem get solved if the nuclear power plants continue to create about 2,000 tons of waste per year and Yucca Mountain opens eight years from now and begins accepting about that amount each year? If you use accurate figures, after 30 years Yucca Mountain would have the legal limit of waste and there would be the same amount of waste spread around the country at the reactors as there is now. And there could well be more if decision makers use a repository as justification for building more waste producing nuclear power plants. This phoney plan just results in one more waste site and a lot more waste. It is time for honesty about our nation's energy policy decisions and about nuclear waste. Nevada refuses to be sacrificed and will certainly not agree to be a part of such a dreadful national policy.
Judy Treichel, Executive Director