- State Officials
Criticize Proposal to "Phase-In" Yucca Mountain
Details Yucca Case Against NRC
- Outrage of the Week
Officials Criticize Proposal to "Phase-In" Yucca
Nevada officials are
criticizing a proposal to build the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear
waste repository in phases, as proposed by a leading scientific
The National Research Council last
week recommended in a 201-page report that an "adaptive staging" strategy
would allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to incorporate the latest
science in its repository designs while allowing for missteps to be
reversed without causing big cost overruns or delays.
Titled "One Step At A Time,"
the report backs DOE proposals to build an underground repository and its
above-ground components in modules while increasing emphasis on ongoing
science research at the site, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
However, in a published report Bob Loux,
director of the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said staging
is a "piecemeal" course that amounts to building a repository on the fly.
He said it conflicts with current license rules and environmental laws.
"If there was an expectation
from the get-go that this was going to be an experimental process and you
do this on an ongoing basis, that might be one thing, but that's not the
way the law was written," said Loux, who had not yet seen the report as of
late last week.
Meanwhile, Sen. Harry Reid
(D-Nev.) said above-ground nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain runs
counter to federal law that prohibits locating "monitored retrievable
storage" at the site.
"As I understand the report,
it reaffirms what we already know, which is the DOE has no idea how to
handle the building of a geologic repository," Reid said.
Nevada Details Yucca
Case Against NRC
Attorney General Brian Sandoval
recently announced the filing of Nevada’s main brief in its case against
Regulatory Commission (NRC). The 75-page brief addresses the NRC’s
proposed licensing regulations for the Yucca nuclear waste
repository. Nevada was joined in the action by co-petitioners
“What our brief
shows,” Sandoval said, “is that the NRC distorted principles of law to
create a licensing rule for Yucca that would get the project licensed
despite their failure to prove geologic containment at the site. We
then had a rule that applied only to the proposed Yucca repository, while
every other such facility ever built in this country is held to higher
standards. The NRC’s licensing effort fails both science and
The suit raises five
major claims against NRC:
* That the NRC’s licensing rule fails to
require the Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate that the
repository’s geologic setting forms the primary barrier for isolation of
wastes buried at Yucca, contrary to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act;
That by permitting the project to be licensed only on the strength of
man-made waste packages, the rule also violates the “multiple barrier”
requirement of that Act, which requires man-made barriers and
geologic barriers to act independently and redundantly to contain lethal
* That the rule unlawfully fails to require NRC to make a
finding that the project conforms with relevant standards of the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
* By deliberately ignoring the
entire period during which radiation doses to humans will be at their
highest and by preventing Nevada from raising such “peak dose” issues in
the contested licensing hearings for Yucca, the rule violates the Atomic
Energy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act;
* The rule
unlawfully requires only a watered-down “reasonable expectation of
safety” standard of proof instead of the “reasonable assurance of
safety” standard required by federal law and applied by the NRC to
every other nuclear facility in America.
“This is a highly
technical challenge designed to ensure that any licensing hearing for
Yucca, if it were ever actually to get that far, will be fair and require
genuine safety in the construction of the repository,” Sandoval
The brief is posted
on Nevada’s Yucca web site at: http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/
Less than a
week after DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Director,
Margaret Chu, met with state and local government officials in Las Vegas
to assuring them of increased cooperation and goodwill between DOE and the
“affected units of government,” President Bush unveiled a FY 2004 federal
budget that zeroes out funds for state and local government oversight of
the Yucca Mountain program.
Chu knew DOE had cut the money for state and local oversight in FY 2004
when she represented to the assemblage of Nevada officials that “a new
day” was dawning at DOE. She spent much of the pitching DOE’s
commitment to increased cooperation with and enhanced involvement of
affected governments. Yet, despite extensive discussion of the FY
2004 budget, she conveniently neglected to mention that her agency had
already decided to eliminated all oversight funds.
having to shell out funds for independent oversight, DOE will now be free
to pick and choose the entities it wishes to bestow its largesse upon,
rewarding those that cooperate and punishing those that disagree or
criticize. More importantly, DOE’s action will cripple local
governments’ oversight programs at the very time when DOE is poised to
make critical, far reaching, and potentially devastating decisions about
spent fuel and high-level waste transportation in Nevada.
decision also eliminates money for, among other things, the state of
Nevada’s corrosion studies. Those studies have dramatically revealed
fatal flaws in DOE’s proposed “magic metal” waste disposal containers –
canisters that must last underground for 10,000 years to compensate for
Yucca Mountain’s porous geology.
of oversight funds also affects Nevada’s activities related to
intervention in any Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding,
something DOE has long viewed with fear and trepidation. The state’s
scientific studies have long been a thorn in DOE’s side as it sought to
cover up one fundamental defect after another at Yucca Mountain.
apparently believes that the best way to be sure hard questions never get
asked is to silence the only remaining independent oversight
should one have expected from an agency that, over the past 50 years, has
wreaked environmental havoc on hundreds of communities throughout the
nation; intentionally released radiation on unsuspecting communities;
carried out radiation experiments on unknowing citizens; repeatedly lied
to congresses, presidents, and citizens about the dangers it was imposing
on people and the environment; and cost the American taxpayer trillions of
dollars in the process?
“new day” is, apparently, nothing more than business as usual at
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