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DOE Should Unify and Extend Deadlines for Comment on Proposed Nuclear Dump Document

July 5, 2001

DOE Should Unify and Extend Deadlines for Comment on Proposed Nuclear Dump Document

Dual Deadlines for Comment Period on Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement Are Confusing and Inequitable

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Public Citizen has requested that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) unify and extend the deadlines for public comment on the Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The current situation is confusing and inequitable, and further discredits the DOE?s process for evaluating the Yucca Mountain repository proposal.

On May 11, the DOE initiated a 45-day comment period on the supplement, which addresses changes in the repository design proposal. Many concerned citizens and public interest organizations, including Public Citizen, expressed concern over this very short comment period, given the highly technical nature of the document. In response, the DOE extended the comment period by 11 days to July 6.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, the DOE realized that 700 addresses had been erroneously omitted from its mailing list when the supplement was distributed in early May. In what Public Citizen views as an ill-conceived effort to compensate for this blunder, the DOE has now extended the deadline for these parties only until August 13. The first token 11-day extension failed to address real concerns for meaningful public participation, and the DOE?s decision to selectively offer an additional extension only compounds this problem.

“This situation is not only confusing, but also inequitable,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, in a letter to Lake Barrett, acting director of the DOE?s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. “We urge you to unify the new deadlines for public comment by further extending the general comment period until at least August 13.”

Other concerned members of the public who are not on any of DOE?s mailing lists and have only recently accessed the document have not been afforded any extension. Also, since it is likely that some of the people originally omitted from the DOE?s mailing list found other ways to acquire the document before it was mailed to them on June 25, the selective extension arbitrarily grants these individuals the benefit of a longer comment period, while denying the same to other interested stakeholders.

“Given the national significance of the Yucca Mountain Project, public participation must be taken seriously and processes must be conducted with integrity,” Hauter?s letter said. “Unless corrected, the unacceptably short comment period and incongruous deadlines will further erode public confidence in the Department of Energy?s Yucca Mountain Project activities.”

Yucca Mountain is the government’s proposed storage site for high-level nuclear waste produced by commercial nuclear power plants and at nuclear weapons facilities. Located about 80 miles from Las Vegas, Yucca Mountain is currently the only site the DOE is considering. However, concerns exist that the storage casks will leak, radioactively contaminating the surrounding environment and endangering public health. The Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).