Nov. 18, 1998

Petition to DOE: Drop Yucca Mountain as Nuclear Dump

Groups Cite Studies Showing Dangerous Conditions at Proposed Repository

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 200 organizations today petitioned the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to immediately abandon the Yucca Mountain, Nev., site as a proposed repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste following studies that show conclusively that the site cannot safely shield the American public from radiation.

The petition cites scientific information that triggers disqualification of the site under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) and the DOE rules that implement that law. The NWPA states that a repository site must be disqualified at any time during the site characterization process if any disqualifying condition exists. The petition establishes that the DOE now has scientific evidence that two disqualifying conditions exist, and it raises concerns about three other serious concerns.

"We call on Secretary Richardson to obey the law and abandon Yucca Mountain once and for all," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "If this flawed scheme goes forward, generations of people who will live in the region surrounding Yucca Mountain over the coming decades and centuries will have to face the very real possibility that one day a lethal nuclear genie will be uncorked."

Using chlorine-36 as a tracer, residues from rainwater less than 50 years old have been detected at the level of the proposed repository. This significant discovery contradicts earlier models of rainwater flow (travel time to the water table). Also, evidence shows that significant amounts of radionuclides are likely to migrate into off-site supplies of groundwater that is currently suitable for human consumption and crop irrigation. These facts indicate that the site likely meets the conditions for disqualification for two guidelines. Additional concerns including seismic activity, volcanism and human intrusion also are raised in the petition.

"Ignoring the potential for catastrophe uncovered by these latest studies would seriously compromise the integrity and credibility of the Yucca Mountain site investigation," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen s Critical Mass Energy Project. "The industry is desperate to find a dumping ground for its dangerous wastes so that it can continue operating, and the DOE appears more than willing to trash its own rules to make it happen. We simply cannot put aside sound science because the industry is crying wolf about a false crisis in nuclear waste storage space."

The petition demands that DOE halt any attempt to bypass current law and its own regulations. Unchecked, DOE will try to force open this dump despite serious problems, Hauter said.

"Our message to the DOE and the nuclear industry is this, as long as you think that dumping highly irradiated nuclear waste in a big hole in the ground at Yucca Mountain is a responsible way to deal with the problem, you will meet opposition at every nuclear reactor site, along every transportation route and at the dump site itself," said Auke Piersma, energy policy analyst at Public Citizen. "The 200 environmental organizations opposing the use of Yucca Mountain today will grow into tens of thousands of concerned, active citizens ready to challenge you face to face."

Letter to DOE Secretary Bill Richardson

Petition to DOE