State Seal
1802 N. Carson Street, Suite 252
Carson City, Nevada 89701
Telephone: (702) 687-3744
Fax: (702) 687-5277
Executive Director

October 15, 1998

Mr. Kenneth A. Hoar, Director
Environment, Safety &Health Division
U.S. Department of Energy
Nevada Operations Office
P.O. Box 98518

Dear Mr. Hoar;

On September 25, 1998 you received a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Radiation and Indoor Environment National Laboratory at Las Vegas, Nevada. The letter was signed by EPA officials Jed Harrison; it conveyed EPA's comments on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Routine Radiological Environmental Monitoring Plan for the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and surrounding region.

My office also received, along with this letter, an (unsigned) attachment from an anonymous source. The contents of the letter and attachments address concerns about ending EPA's independent oversight of an ongoing routine radiological monitoring program for the NTS and surrounding regions. Apparently, beginning in October 1998, DOE will directly administer the radiological monitoring program, a function that was conducted by EPA for nearly 30 years.

The contents of the letter and attachment contain some disturbing information about DOE's revised program to significantly reduce radiological monitoring at NTS and the surrounding region. According to EPA, the plan will reduce the scope of offsite monitoring. EPA officials note that "reductions in offsite monitoring are excessive, drastically reducing segments of the program which have been driven stakeholder concerns. . . ". In this regard, the letter raises serious allegations about DOE's failed process to include stakeholder interest in the formulation of the monitoring plan. If this allegation is true, it flies in the face of DOE's national "Openness Initiative."

From the state's perspective, a reduction in the offsite sampling frequency of down gradient wells near the NTS boundary is not acceptable. Limiting offsite sampling of groundwater runs contrary to an ongoing corrective actions investigation for characterizing the movement of contaminated groundwater caused by underground nuclear testing. This is important since it now appears that offsite groundwater contaminations (in the Oasis Valley area) is a real concern. Moreover, actions by DOE to significantly reduce radiological monitoring conflicts with recent efforts by State officials concerning the development of a health assessment and monitoring program for the NTS and surrounding environs. Such an effort remains an important equity issue for the State of Nevada.

Although Nevada has a long history of exposure to nuclear radiation from nuclear testing at NTS, there has been little attention given by DOE to the health risks of past exposures and little understanding of risks associated with ongoing and proposed nuclear waste disposal activities at NTS. State officials do acknowledge that very limited epidemiological studies were conducted after nuclear testing, however, those studies focused primarily on selected citizens in states other than Nevada. These studies did show a relationship between fallout and thyroid abnormalities and leukemia rates.

As DOE is aware, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently released a national study of radioactive iodine exposures from nuclear tests, and although NCI's study is insufficient for assessing health risks to Nevadans, medical ethnographies have reported a great deal of anecdotal evidence for health effects from fallout beyond what has been document by existing epidemiological studies. In addition to the continuing health risks associated with past weapons testing, State officials are very concerned about the risks posed by ongoing and proposed nuclear waste disposal activities at NTS. This is important, since NTS is a principal disposal site for defense Low-Level Waste (LLW). The site could also see significant increases in LLW waste disposal operations, given the outcome of DOE's decision concerning the department's Waste Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. It is also important to remember that Nevada could be impacted by thousands of shipments of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel beginning early in the next century should Yucca Mountain become a HLW repository or should Congress be successful in designating NTS as an interim storage site for commercial spent fuel.

Finally, as you know, State officials are pursuing federal assistance from DOE and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in an effort to begin a statewide and/or regional approach to identify past and potential health risks associated with federal nuclear activities in Nevada. Such an effort could involve new epidemiological studies and health surveillance activities. Pursuit of these activities have been disclosed to DOE through State comments submitted to DOE's on the departments national and site specific (1998) Path to Closure's "Ten Year Cleanup Plans" and through direct correspondence from Governor Bob Miller to ATSDR officials. In addition, there is an ongoing series of meetings among officials from DOE/Nevada, ATSDR and the State of Nevada concerning the potential development of a health assessment and monitoring program for the NTS and surrounding environs.

Given all of these considerations, State officials are very concerned about actions by DOE to significantly reduce or modify the radiological environmental monitoring program for the NTS and surrounding environs, and the process by which these decisions were made. Accordingly, we would appreciate an explanation from DOE concerning the issues raised in the attached letter from the EPA.


Robert R. Loux
Executive Director


cc.Governor Bob Miller
 Nevada Congressional Delegation
 Alan Tinney State Health Division
 Paul Liebendorfer, NDEP
 DOE/Yucca Mountain
 Carl Gertz, DOE/NV
 Jed Harrison, EPA - Las Vegas

EPA Letter with Attachment

Department of Energy (DOE) Guts Environmental & Radiation Monitoring Around the Nevada Test Site

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