Jan. 17, 2001

Public Citizen Urges Energy Secretary to Recuse Himself From Yucca Mountain Dealings

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Public Citizen today sent a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham urging him to recuse himself from responsibilities related to a proposal to build a nuclear waste repository in Nevada because of campaign contributions he has received from the nuclear industry.

The commercial nuclear industry is a long-time supporter of the controversial proposal to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and would directly benefit if the project were approved. Abraham accepted $82,728 from the nuclear industry during the last election cycle (1995 through Sept. 30, 2000), according to analysis by Public Citizen's Congress Watch. In addition, PoliticalMoneyLine's reporting of Federal Election Commission data show that in 1999-2000 alone, Abraham?s contributions from major nuclear operators included, $9,000 from Florida Power and Light, $5,000 each from Southern Company and DTE Energy, and $3,000 from PECO (now Exelon), as well as $4,000 from the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry?s lobbying association.

The energy secretary is required to evaluate the suitability of Yucca Mountain for a nuclear waste repository. Late last week, Secretary Abraham gave notice that he intends to favorably recommend the site to the president. Nevada?s congressional delegation, governor and state legislature, as well as public interest, consumer advocacy and environmental organizations across the country strongly oppose the project on the basis of unresolved safety, environmental and policy issues.

Abraham?s financial ties to the pro-repository nuclear industry pose a clear conflict of interest in his consideration of a Yucca Mountain site recommendation. To ensure fair and independent proceedings related to the proposed repository, Public Citizen is urging Abraham to immediately recuse himself from involvement in the Yucca Mountain project.

"We have grave concerns that Secretary Abraham cannot be objective in this matter," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "Already, the DOE Inspector General and the General Accounting Office have indicated that the government is acting prematurely in preparing a site recommendation in the absence of supporting data. We don?t need a cheerleader for the industry to push this thing further."

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Click here for a copy of the letter.