Thursday, June 26, 1997
By Keith Rogers
Nevada's nuclear chief said Wednesday a federal plan to assess building a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain is a political document designed to lock the White House into supporting temporary storage of the waste at the Nevada Test Site.
"What our view is of the viability assessment is that it's a political document to serve a political purpose. What it's intended to do is shoehorn the White House into supporting this legislation," said Bob Loux,executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency.
Loux's comments were made after he addressed a meeting of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a presidential panel that reviews and monitors the Department of Energy's effort to determine if Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is suitable for safely entombing the nation's high-level radioactive waste. The panel's summer meeting continues today at the Crowne Plaza.
The Clinton administration's acceptance of the viability assessment would "make Yucca Mountain a done deal," Loux said. He said the plan could persuade the White House to agree to legislation that would allow the waste to be hauled to the Nevada Test Site for temporary storage above ground near Yucca Mountain until a repository is built. Then, he said, under the viability assessment plan, the Energy Department could load and operate an unlicensed repository inside Yucca Mountain for more than 100 years.
Lake Barrett, acting director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, said the viability assessment document is an analysis of building a high-level radioactive waste repository from a scientific and engineering perspective. "I do not believe it is a political document.
It will be used by politicians. Bob (Loux) is correct that it is a stepping stone to a political decision," Barrett said. If the repository site is found to be unsuitable for some reason, whether it be for earthquake safety or ground-water intrusion that could carry off contaminants "then the government would have a choice." That choice, he said, would be to store the waste where it is at the time a decision is made, store it somewhere else, or explore other ways of disposing of it.
So would Nevada be stuck with the waste if it is transported to the test site for Temporary Storage?
"I have no idea," Barrett answered.