June 14, 2002

Earthquake Near Yucca Mountain Highlights Dangers of Dump Proposal

Statement of Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen President

Today?s predawn earthquake near Yucca Mountain ? occurring just weeks before the Senate casts its key vote on the nuclear waste dump ? seems to be nature?s way of warning lawmakers to put the brakes on this bad plan.

Yucca Mountain sits in an earthquake zone. More than 600 earthquakes of a magnitude of 2.5 or more have been measured within 50 miles of Yucca Mountain since 1910. Nevada ranks third in the nation in frequency of strong earthquakes. Today?s earthquake, which measured 4.4 on the Richter scale, although it did no damage, highlights one of the many reasons why a high-level radioactive waste dump should not be established at the mountain.

Scientists have been unable to demonstrate that a repository at Yucca Mountain could safely isolate high-level nuclear waste throughout the thousands of years it remains dangerously radioactive. Over time, radioactivity is expected to leak into the aquifer beneath Yucca Mountain and contaminate this important source of drinking water. Radiation standards at Yucca Mountain had to be weakened by the Bush administration?s Environmental Protection Agency for the unsound project to proceed.

Incredibly, lawmakers are ignoring the dangers; the U.S. House of Representatives has approved the president?s Yucca Mountain site recommendation. We strongly urge the Senate to take note of today?s incident and realize the sheer folly of the Yucca Mountain proposal. If they don?t, future generations will look back in disbelief. We can?t say we haven?t been warned.

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