Yucca Mountain Update -- A Publication of the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects

Volume 1 Issue 7 ~ March 6, 2003




- Nevada AG Claims Feds' Probe into State's Complaints "Missed the Point"

- NRC, Environmental Groups Organize Workshops on Nuke Waste Transportation Cask Testing 

- Outrage of the Week


Nevada AG Claims Feds' Probe into State's Complaints "Missed the Point"
Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval this week alleged that federal investigators "missed the point" while probing state officials' arguments that government officials shut them out of important information related to the Yucca Mountain project.


In a letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Richard Meserve, Sandoval expressed his concerns with an NRC inspector general's report completed after Sandoval's predecessor, then-Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, filed complaints with the NRC.


Del Papa alleged that NRC and Department of Energy (DOE) staff members were developing policy on the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository at sessions where state representatives and other critics of the nuclear waste repository were excluded.


Sandoval in his letter said the NRC's two-month probe, which cleared staff members of wrong-doing, got the facts wrong and based its findings on "strained analysis." Sandoval added that the investigation "missed the point," which he said was to ensure the NRC "be totally objective and impartial" on the Yucca project "both in perception and reality."


"The real question before you is whether you will respect the principles of fairness and impartiality in connection with any Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding," Sandoval wrote to Meserve.


Sandoval also criticized the inspector general's analysis of an Office of Government Ethics ruling this summer that is preventing Nevada from making full use of a consultant, John Bartlett, a former head of the DOE's Yucca program.

NRC, Environmental Groups Organize Workshops on Nuke Waste Transportation Cask Testing 
Both the NRC and a group of environmental organizations will host public workshops in Southern Nevada next week to obtain input into the controversial issue of transporting spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain.


Seeking public comment on studies related to test protocols for containers used to ship spent nuclear fuel, the NRC will hold two in a series of public workshops and meetings in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nev.


The NRC's Las Vegas workshop on the Spent Fuel Transportation Package Performance Study Test Protocols (PPS) is scheduled for Thursday, March 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Clark County Building Department, 4701 W. Russell Rd. A public meeting and seminar in Pahrump is slated for Friday, March 13, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mountain View Casino and Bowl, 1750 S. Pahrump Valley Blvd.  A final workshop is planned for Thursday, March 19 in Rosemont, Ill.; the first in the series of meetings was held March 6 at NRC headquarters in Washington, D.C.


All comments provided at the March 12 NRC meeting will be recorded as part of the public comment and input on the PPS.


The NRC is also accepting written comments on the PPS until May 30.  Copies of the PPS are available for review at NRC's publications web page.  Additional copies of the report and other related data are available at the Sandia National Laboratories website.


Comments also may be submitted via e-mail to nrcrep@nrc.gov; in writing to Michael Lesar, Chief Rules and Directives Branch, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: T6-D-59, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001; or via the NRC website.


Meanwhile, in an effort to provide the public and stakeholder groups with information about NRC's cask testing plan and to facilitate participation in the March 12 meeting, the Shundahai Network, Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Public Citizen, and Nuclear Information & Resource Service are jointly sponsoring a public workshop in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 11.


The workshop, which will feature a presentation by Bob Halstead of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Clark County Commission Chambers in the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy.  The meeting is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Lisa Gue at Public Citizen at (702) 369-2730 or Lgue@citizen.org



Outrage of
the Week

The NRC Inspector General's whitewash of charges that DOE and NRC conspired to exclude the State of Nevada representatives  from key meetings and interactions relating to NRC’s licensing process for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository  clearly dispels any notion of openness and fairness with respect to NRC's licensing process for Yucca Mountain.  


According to the IG, any time the two agencies want to meet in secret or cover up some inconvenient finding regarding Yucca Mountain, they need only categorize the interaction as an “informal meeting” permitted under the NRC’s regulations.  There are no checks and balances – and no recourse – to assure that under-the-table and underhanded deals are not being made. 


Nevada’s Attorney General and congressional delegation had requested the investigation when word leaked out of secret meetings between DOE and NRC staff on crucial site suitability and licensing issues.  As the party most affected and the principal intervener in any licensing proceeding, the State of Nevada has a right to be present whenever DOE and NRC meet to discuss Yucca Mountain issues.


Nevada has good cause to suspect NRC’s and DOE’s motives.  Litigation currently pending before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals documents a long and sordid history of DOE-NRC collusion with respect to the illegal replacement of DOE’s site evaluation guidelines and NRC’s licensing regulations that would have required the abandonment of the Yucca Mountain site. 


NRC’s licensing process for Yucca Mountain is already mired in institutionalized bias.  Under the rules, NRC staff actually function as chief advocates for the project applicant (in this case DOE) during the licensing proceedings and plead the applicant’s case before the Commission’s licensing board.  The same NRC staff will also decide what issues will be allowed consideration during licensing.  Quite a sweet deal for DOE.


The IG’s whitewash of illegal DOE – NRC interactions has given official sanction to continued and increased sub rosa shenanigans between DOE and NRC and will encourage ever-more-blatant illegal deal-making.  Any remaining illusion of NRC as an impartial or objective arbiter should have put to rest permanently by the IG’s action.

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