- Welcome to
Yucca Mountain Update
- Nevada Fires Opening Salvo Over Yucca
- DOE's Broken Promises in New Mexico Fuel Nevada's
Welcome to Yucca Mountain
Although the political
battle over the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository ended
in July, Nevada’s legal fight continues – with the ultimate goal of
derailing the scientifically- and legally-challenged
With that in
mind, Nevada's Nuclear Projects Agency presents Yucca Mountain
Update, a newsletter geared at providing readers with the latest, most
up-to-date information about the State’s legal challenges against Yucca
Mountain. We’ll also highlight previous transgressions and missteps
by the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not only
in Nevada, but throughout the country.
Opening Salvo Over Yucca Mountain Repository
General Frankie Sue Del Papa, joined by Clark County
and Las Vegas officials, today presented to the Court of Appeals in
Washington, D.C., their “case in chief” against President Bush and the
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concerning the Yucca
nuclear waste repository.
100-page document details the state’s claims that the DOE ignored the
statutory requirements of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the National
Environmental Policy Act in recommending a site that could no longer
demonstrate any ability to geologically isolate radioactive waste.
person who continues to believe that this repository is not in serious
legal trouble has simply not read this brief,” Del Papa said. “I
believe we’re going to bring the house of cards down – and sooner than
most people think.”
has brought three claims in connection with DOE’s determination of Yucca
site suitability, and several claims in connection with the project’s
Final Environmental Impact Statement, which the state called “the most
glaring attempted evasion of federal environmental review responsibilities
in the 31 years since the Supreme Court heard the first such case in
arguing that, upon discovering in the late 1990s that the site was
scientifically disqualified under the waste statute and DOE’s siting
guidelines, the DOE jettisoned its rules and crafted new rules to jawbone
the site into conforming with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s
so, DOE altogether abandoned mandatory site characterization requirements
for Yucca and stopped studying the mountain.
also is claiming that the DOE failed to prepare and publish a mandatory
Record of Decision; failed to define the project in accordance with law;
unlawfully deferred transportation analysis; failed to secure a hazardous
waste permit from Nevada; and included wastes that are not eligible for
disposal under the law.
DOE also failed to timely distribute its impact statement to Nevada and
other key agencies, and failed to evaluate the realistic consequences of
not proceeding with the project.
the Court of Appeals earlier permitted Nevada to bring its case on the
merits to a three-judge panel, Nevada’s legal team was able to scour more
than 500,000 pages of documents comprising the administrative record in
the consolidated cases, dozens of which are cited in the brief.
These documents indicate that, if the repository’s man-made waste packages
do not perform perfectly for at least 10,000 years, the radiation doses
humans will receive in the local environment will be far beyond levels
permissible by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
also cites instances of DOE officials lying to Congress and the Nuclear
Waste Technical Review Board, doctoring repository performance analyses,
and failing to produce dozens of incriminating documents in the
just the opening salvo,” Del Papa said, noting Nevada’s additional
lawsuits against the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC). At Nevada’s request, all three will be assigned to a single
judicial panel in Washington, and all will be heard orally in September
also is contemplating filing a constitutional challenge against DOE and
the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, something Del Papa is discussing with
Attorney General-elect Brian Sandoval.
think of a greater way to end my tenure as Attorney General,” she
said. “I’m very proud of the work our team has done, and I think we
will be posted on the state’s Yucca Mountain web site, www.state.nv.us/nucwaste.
Promises in New Mexico Fuel Nevada's Skepticism
Based on the
Department of Energy’s unfulfilled promises to New Mexico more than two
decades ago when it established a nuclear waste isolation plant there,
state officials are being urged to keep the DOE “at arm’s length” as it
pursues plans for the Yucca Mountain repository and promises economic
compensation for Nevada.
Bob Loux, director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency,
recently told the Nevada Legislature’s Committee on High-Level Radioactive
Waste that the state should maintain an “adversarial relationship” with
DOE based on New Mexico’s experiences with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
“The DOE left a
series of broken promises (to New Mexico) and a failure to live up to its
commitments” in developing WIPP over the last 15 years, Loux said. “The
DOE has systematically backed away from all of its agreements with New
In his testimony,
Loux outlined a series of promises that DOE made with New Mexico beginning
in 1978, regarding such issues as the state’s ability to veto the WIPP
facility and DOE commitments to road construction
DOE in 1991 opened
WIPP without consulting the state or obtaining congressional approval; New
Mexico filed suit to stop DOE from proceeding. In 1992, over DOE’s
protests, New Mexico’s congressional delegation included a provision in
the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act proving the state with $20 million per year
for 14 years for starting economic assistance. However, in 1999, DOE
withheld the $20 million payment in a dispute with the New Mexico
Department of Energy; the action cost the state $7 million in bond
payments that came due while the money was being withheld.
“All of these
actions portend a significant example for Nevada,” Loux
On Nov. 19-21, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Advisory Commission on Nuclear Waste (ACNW)
held a transportation workshop that brought together representatives from
the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), other federal agencies, and the
nuclear industry to discuss various aspects of spent fuel and high-level
radioactive waste transportation.
However, conspicuously missing
from the workshop’s agenda were experts from the state of Nevada, other
states, or public interest groups – i.e., anyone who might bring a
broader, albeit more critical, perspective to the issue.
a result, committee members and others attending the meeting were treated
to a very one-sided and potentially skewed perspective on a matter that is
of great importance, not only to the ACNW and NRC, but to the country as a
letter to ACNW Chairman George N. Hornberger, Nevada Nuclear Projects
Agency Director Bob Loux proposed that, before the committee reports on
this matter to the NRC, the state of Nevada be afforded the opportunity to
organize a follow-up workshop at a future ACNW meeting for the purpose of
providing the committee with views of transportation experts not employed
by DOE or the nuclear industry.
We would propose a one day
session, with presentations on transportation policy and planning; cask
safety/cask testing; security and safeguards; and public acceptance, risk,
and risk perception.
With the transportation of spent nuclear fuel and
high-level waste set to become a high profile and potentially volatile
public issue as the Private Fuel Storage project in Utah moves towards
fruition and plans for nuclear waste transportation associated with the
Yucca Mountain program begin to be more visible, the need for enhanced
credibility on the part of organizations charged with assuring public
health and safety in things nuclear becomes increasingly important.
The type of meeting ACNW held on November 19th – 21st
can only fuel public skepticism and distrust about government’s role in
assuring the safety of such shipments and the apparently ‘cozy’
relationship between NRC, DOE, and the commercial nuclear
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