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A Victory for Consumers in Yucca Mountain Fight; NRC Overrules Energy Department’s Claim That It Made Information Public

Aug. 31, 2004

A Victory for Consumers in Yucca Mountain Fight; NRC Overrules Energy Department’s Claim That It Made Information Public

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) judicial arm, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, unanimously ruled today that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) failed to make publicly available on the Internet all documents related to the Yucca Mountain Project, as required by law. As a result, Yucca Mountain’s timeline has once again been postponed due to the government’s inability to follow its own guidelines.

Federal regulation requires the DOE to make all of its documentary information related to its Yucca Mountain license application available online six months in advance of filing its application. Therefore, to meet its self-imposed application deadline of December 2004, the DOE would have had to post all its supporting documents online by June 30, 2004.  At 5 p.m. on June 30 – exactly six months to the day – DOE certified in writing that its documentary material was “available.”

Posting all relevant Yucca Mountain documents online allows the public to review the materials and participate effectively in the Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings. This purpose cannot be achieved unless the Web site is fully functional and complete.

Despite DOE’s self-certification, all of the information related to the Yucca Mountain licensing application was not available to the public on June 30, nor is it all available to this day. The agency admitted to the licensing board that of the estimated 2.1 million documents related to the project, only half are posted online, although officials did not explain why. In addition, more than four million e-mails related to research on the Yucca Mountain Project – often important sources of information – have not been posted.

According to the licensing board, “[W]e conclude that because of the incompleteness of its document review and production, the many years that DOE has had to gather and produce its documents, and the fact the date of production was effectively within DOE’s control, DOE’s document production on June 30, 2004, did not satisfy its obligation to make, in good faith, all of its documentary material available pursuant to” NRC’s regulations. The NRC will not accept the DOE’s licensing application until six months after all the documents have been made available, meaning the project will be delayed indefinitely until the documents are posted.

The DOE does not appear to be capable of this task. Together with the recent court ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally set a 10,000-year compliance period for the radiation release standards of groundwater at Yucca Mountain (a ruling that also has delayed the project), it is clear that the Yucca Mountain Project is flawed both in its science and in its management and should be abandoned.

To view a copy of the licensing board’s decision, click here.