STATEMENT OF KENNY C. GUINN
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEVADA
BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE
SUBCOMITTEE ON ENERGY AND AIR QUALITY
April 18, 2002
Honorable Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, my name is Kenny C. Guinn and I am Governor of the State of Nevada. I appreciate the opportunity to submit written comments for the Committee's consideration. Due to conflicting commitments, I am unable to be present in person, and I apologize for that. I am disappointed, however, that the Committee was unable to accept Mr. Steven Molasky to testify for Nevada in my place. Mr. Molasky, a respected Nevada businessman, is a senior member of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects and would have made a valuable contribution to your deliberations. I am likewise disappointed that your Committee was unable to accept the testimony of Mr. Robert Loux, the longstanding Director of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Project, and perhaps the most knowledgeable Nevadan when it comes to Yucca Mountain issues.
Nevada considers the Yucca Mountain project to be the product of extremely bad science, extremely bad law, and extremely bad public policy. Moreover, implementing this ill-conceived project will expose tens of millions of Americans to unnecessary nuclear transport risks. For that reason, we believe Congress should take no further action with respect to the Yucca Mountain project.
Attached to this statement are the Notice of Disapproval and an accompanying Statement of Reasons I recently filed with the U.S. Congress pursuant to Section 116 of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Please consider the Statement of Reasons to represent my written testimony to the Committee. In addition, I would like to supplement this testimony with the following:
More on the Unsound Science of Yucca Mountain
Yet another document, perhaps the key document, has now appeared from within the scientific community that excoriates the scientific work of the Department of Energy (DOE) in connection with Yucca Mountain. Numerous independent scientific reviewers have now evaluated the project during the past year, and all have reached the same conclusion: There is nowhere near enough information to certify the suitability of the Yucca Mountain site for high-level nuclear waste disposal, and the information that is available suggests the site is woefully unsuitable geologically.
This latest report, however, reaches shocking new conclusions. It is a peer review report commissioned by DOE from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These agencies assembled some of the world's leading scientists to evaluate, over several months, the total system performance of Yucca Mountain as represented by DOE and its computer models. Among other things, these leading scientists concluded that DOE lacks sufficient information even to build a model to predict the suitability and hydrogeologic performance of the proposed repository. According to the peer review group, the water flow system at Yucca Mountain is "not sufficiently understood to propose a conceptual model for a realistic transport scenario."
Moreover, according to the peer review group, DOE's level of understanding of the hydrogeology of the site is "low, unclear, and insufficient to support an assessment of realistic performance." DOE's sensitivity studies in its computer models "do not give any clues to the important pathways for the water in the system." Perhaps most troubling of all, in DOE's performance model of Yucca Mountain, "increased ignorance leads to lower expected doses, which does not appear to be a sensible basis for decision-making."
It is truly amazing to me, as an elected executive official, that DOE commissioned this peer review report many months ago, and then made a final "site suitability" determination to the President and the Congress in spite of its stunning conclusions. It shows once again, in my view, that politics has long prevailed over science when it comes to Yucca Mountain. This is another reason for Nevada to redouble its efforts to stop this project - government bureaucrats seem unable to pull the plug, even in the face of shocking independent evidence that the science is bad or nonexistent.
A copy of the IAEA/NEA peer review report is attached, together with a brief summary of its findings.
The PECO Solution and the Myth of Proliferating Storage Sites
It is almost certain that, even if Yucca Mountain proceeds, every nuclear utility in the United States will nonetheless have to build an interim dry storage facility for their inventories of spent nuclear fuel, if they have not already done so. This is because Yucca Mountain will not be ready to receive high-level radioactive waste until long after spent fuel pools at reactor sites have been filled to capacity. Moreover, as I have explained in my Statement of Reasons, Yucca Mountain will not reduce the number of storage sites across America for 60 to 100 years, even if no new plants are built, and Yucca Mountain will never reduce the number of storage sites as long as nuclear reactors continue to be built and operated.
Attached to this statement is a copy of the agreement DOE signed with PECO Energy in June 2000. As explained in my Statement of Reasons, the PECO deal is the safe, practical, economic alternative to a severely flawed Yucca Mountain project. It represents what utilities are planning to do, and will do anyway, in the real world. The only question about the PECO solution is whether it will be implemented using funds from the Nuclear Waste Fund, or from some alternative funding source. I urge the Committee to explore the PECO deal carefully, and to question DOE and the nuclear industry as to why it has recently been ignored, or even hidden from public view.
The final issue I want to bring to your attention again is the nuclear transportation issue. Some have accused Nevada of fear mongering simply for honestly and sincerely raising the many questions that nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain pose for our nation's citizens. But these are extremely legitimate questions, and they deserve legitimate answers.
In its Environmental Impact Statement for Yucca Mountain, DOE's own numbers point to as many as 108,000 high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel shipments to Yucca Mountain. Almost every state, and most major metropolitan areas, will be affected by these shipments. More than 123 million citizens reside within one-half-mile of the proposed transport routes. The modes and methodologies for shipment have not yet been determined, much less analyzed. For example, we recently learned from DOE that as many as 3,000 barge shipments may be involved, traversing numerous port cities and harbor areas. According to DOE's own analyses, a single accident scenario could produce thousands of latent cancer fatalities and lead to many billions of dollars in cleanup costs.
DOE has never done an analysis of the terrorism risks associated with mass transport to Yucca Mountain. In a recent brief filed in NRC license proceedings by nuclear utilities for the proposed Private Fuel Storage facility in Utah, the nuclear industry took the position that it is essentially no one's jurisdiction, other than the U.S. military, to evaluate terrorism risks in spent fuel transport. According to the utilities, this is not a proper subject for analysis by DOE, the NRC, the Department of Transportation, or the industry itself. In short, if you believe the industry, this is an area that only Congress can now evaluate, or direct others to evaluate. Put another way, if Congress does not order such an analysis to be done, none will be done. In the wake of September 11th, failure to perform such an analysis would appear unwise.
And there is something else our experts now tell us: DOE has never done an evaluation of the nuclear criticality risk of a spent fuel cask getting struck by a state-of-the-art armor-piercing weapon. In recent nuclear industry advertisements and press statements, it was suggested that if a warhead penetrated a cask, authorities would simply dispatch an emergency crew to "plug it up." This assumes the dose rate in the vicinity of the cask is not a lethal one. It assumes that the warhead does not essentially liquefy the contents of the cask, if it is not already liquid. It assumes that any inner explosion in the cask would not so alter the geometry of the contents that the contents would go critical, obliterating the cask. It assumes that the cask is not over a river or on a barge and will not subsequently fill with water, a neutron moderator. It assumes that the cask is not filled with U.S. or foreign research reactor spent fuel, which is usually comprised of highly-enriched, or weapons-grade, uranium.
Finally, there are questions regarding the casks that will be used for shipping high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel to any repository. First of all, very few casks exist today, so the ones that would be used for a 38-year shipping campaign to Yucca Mountain are still in various stages of development. That might be acceptable if we knew they were going to be subjected to rigorous physical testing prior to use, but that is not intended. Instead, computer- and some limited scale-model testing is the planned method of assessing cask integrity. Those ancient tapes we have all seen of discarded shipping casks being dropped from helicopters, run into cement walls and hit by trains - none of that is planned for the new generation of casks. No, instead we are being asked to believe recent industry claims that the new, not-yet-built casks can withstand "all but the most advanced armor-piercing weapons" and a "direct hit by a fully fueled Boeing 747." These wild claims are not based on actual testing, and we know from tests conducted at Sandia National Laboratories in the 1980s and by the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds as recently as 1998 that even very robust casks are vulnerable to attacks from small missiles. Shouldn't the new generation of casks be subjected to full-scale physical testing under a range of conceivable scenarios, including an attack by terrorists willing to give their own lives?
These are but a few of the many legitimate questions that remain about high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel transport. As a nation, we deserve clear and honest answers. Industry claims and a "trust me" attitude are simply not enough.
Thank you for your consideration.