DOE Should Cancel “Kangaroo Court”

Aug. 28, 2001

DOE Should Cancel “Kangaroo Court”

Yucca Mountain Hearings Unjust, Unfair, Unacceptable

NOTE: The U.S. Department of Energy is holding a Sept. 5 hearing in Las Vegas on the government’s intention to establish a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Public Citizen will issue “Kangaroo Court Countdown Alerts” each day until the hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Denouncing the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) attempt to limit public participation in its efforts to establish a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, national public interest organizations joined citizens’ groups in Nevada today in calling for recently announced hearings to be cancelled. The DOE gave Las Vegas residents only nine business days notice of a critical Sept. 5 public hearing on the proposed site, which the groups say should not be turned into a nuclear waste dump. No other sites are being considered.

Residents in Amargosa Valley and Pahrump didn’t get much more notice than Las Vegas residents; those hearings will be held Sept. 12 and 13 respectively. The DOE announced the hearings in the Federal Register on Aug. 21. A 30-day public comment period extends to Sept. 20.

“This is disgraceful,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The Department of Energy has abandoned all pretense of integrity and objectivity in announcing these crucial hearings at such short notice during a holiday season. Contrary to its mandate, the agency seems intent on minimizing public participation and is turning the process into a kangaroo court.”

Anna Aurilio, legislative director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group, agreed. “The Department of Energy has consistently ignored sound science when it comes to Yucca Mountain. It is outrageous that DOE is now ignoring the public when making this critical decision.”

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires the DOE to hold hearings in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain before recommending that the site be developed as a nuclear waste repository. The Secretary of Energy is expected to make a formal recommendation later this year in favor of the proposed nuclear dump. This recommendation would be transmitted to the president, then referred to Congress for final approval.

“The DOE and its friends in the nuclear industry might think that they can sidestep the overwhelming opposition to the repository project by downplaying the significance of these hearings, but we will be there to say in no uncertain terms that Nevada is not a wasteland,” said John Hadder, northern Nevada coordinator with Citizen Alert, a member organization of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

The DOE is trying to finalize the site while many unresolved issues remain.

“The DOE’s Aug. 21 preliminary site suitability assessment of the Yucca Mountain site is premature at best,” said Judy Treichel, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force. “In addition to longstanding technical uncertainties about the repository project, a safe transportation scenario has not been identified, the required environmental impact statement has not been released, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not issued licensing regulations, and the DOE is relying on proposed siting guidelines to fit the site.”

Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist with Nuclear Information and Resource Service, emphasized the need to address transportation concerns. “When DOE tried to ship radioactive plutonium through Michigan in recent years, then-Senator Abraham called the absence of meaningful hearings ‘irresponsible and offensive to Michigan residents,’ in consideration of the serious ramifications of an accident. Tens of thousands of shipments through 43 states to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump would be much more dangerous, but ironically Energy Secretary Abraham is ignoring the transportation issue.”

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Women’s Action for New Directions, Nevada Desert Experience and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force are calling on the DOE to extend the comment period and postpone hearings in Nevada and consideration of site recommendation until these critical issues are satisfactorily resolved.

The Sept. 5 hearing is scheduled to take place from 5-9 p.m. at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino, 9090 Alta Drive, Las Vegas. The other hearings will be held from 5–9 p.m. on Sept.12 at the Longstreet Inn and Casino, Highway 373, Amargosa Valley, and from 5-9 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Bob Ruud Community Center, 150 Highway North #160, Pahrump.

Written comments can be submitted to Carol Hanlon, DOE, Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office (M/S #025), P.O. Box 30307, North Las Vegas, NV 89036-0307; e-mail: YMP_SR@ymp.gov;fax: 1-800-967-0739. The DOE’s Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office can be contacted by phone at 1-800-967-3477.

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