Public Citizen Requests Documents Used by DOE to Assess Impact of Recent Earthquake Near Yucca Mountain

July 3, 2002

Public Citizen Requests Documents Used by DOE to Assess Impact of Recent Earthquake Near Yucca Mountain

Earthquake Questions Loom as Senate Vote Nears

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Citing the “curious” nature of the Department of Energy?s rapid determination that a June 14 earthquake did no damage to facilities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project, Public Citizen filed a Freedom of Information request with the DOE to obtain all of the documents related to that assessment.

“How could the DOE have assessed that no damage was done to the entire compound within several hours of the earthquake?” said Tyson Slocum, research director with Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program (CMEEP). “Since Yucca Mountain sits on one of the most seismically active areas in the U.S., we need to make sure that the government is taking the time to review every nook and cranny to ensure that safety is not being compromised.”

The DOE issued a press release the same day as the earthquake, stating “there was no damage to any Yucca Mountain Project facilities, structures or the underground Exploratory Studies Facilities.”

“This rush to judgment is symptomatic of the larger problems with the DOE?s Yucca Mountain proposal,” said Lisa Gue, policy analyst with CMEEP. “The site recommendation, soon to be voted on by the Senate, is dangerously premature at best.”

Opponents of the Yucca Mountain proposal have long argued that a nuclear waste dump should not be located in an earthquake zone due to the potential danger of high-level radioactive waste leaking into the surrounding environment. In 1996, an earthquake near Yucca Mountain caused nearly $1 million dollars in damages to the Yucca Mountain Project facilities. In addition, the General Accounting Office found 293 unresolved scientific and technical issues with DOE?s repository proposal, and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board has called the technical basis for the proposal “weak to moderate.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump early next week. The U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the dump in May. Click here to view a copy of the letter.