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Public Citizen to DOE: Don’t Make Yucca Mountain a Nuclear Waste Dump

Sept. 5, 2001

Public Citizen to DOE: Don’t Make Yucca Mountain a Nuclear Waste Dump

Public Citizen Delivers Comments Tonight at Yucca Mountain Hearing in North Las Vegas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The government should not turn Nevada’s Yucca Mountain into a high-level nuclear waste dump because doing so could contaminate the area, Public Citizen is telling the U.S. Department of Energy today.

Public Citizen is to deliver written comments on the Yucca Mountain proposal at a public hearing tonight in North Las Vegas.  Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is expected to make a recommendation about the site to President Bush later this year, then the matter would be transmitted to Congress for a vote.

“The Yucca Mountain project is an enormous waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “These funds should be redirected toward phasing out nuclear power and safely isolating radioactive waste that has already been generated.”

Public Citizen also criticized the DOE for rushing the proposal through before the necessary analyses have been made available. Many key site recommendation documents are not publicly available, including a long-awaited environmental impact statement. Thousands of comments on a draft environmental impact statement, including many related to concerns about nuclear waste transportation, have not yet been addressed.

“The Department of Energy lacks a basis for considering site recommendation at this time since several key analyses and regulations are incomplete,” Hauter wrote. “A site recommendation would presumably reference these documents, but the public is being asked to comment prior to their release. By prematurely scheduling the required hearings, the DOE has undermined the possibility for meaningful public participation in the Yucca Mountain project.”

Further, the DOE gave the public little notice about tonight’s hearing. Nevada residents received only nine business days notice during a time when many people take vacation. No hearings have been scheduled outside of Nevada, and the general comment period was set for 30 days, ending Sept. 20.

But the primary concern regards safety.

“The Yucca Mountain site is unsuitable because it could not geologically contain nuclear waste throughout its dangerous lifetime. . . . The only question is when – not if – a repository at Yucca Mountain would contaminate the area with radiation,” Hauter’s letter says.

Hauter also addressed the inadequacies of the DOE’s proposals for transporting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. Routing projections indicate that high-level waste shipments would likely pass within half a mile of the homes, schools and workplaces of 50 million Americans in 43 states, yet the DOE has not yet detailed how waste would be transported or specifically which routes would be used. This could pose serious risks to public health and safety, Hauter said.

Public Citizen intends to deliver oral comments at tonight’s public hearing at the Nevada Operations Building in North Las Vegas (232 Energy Lane). However, it is not clear what opportunity members of the public will have to voice their concerns. Without announcing this policy, the DOE’s Yucca Mountain Project Office has been pre-registering a priority list of speakers, who are expected to take up more than the three hours scheduled for tonight’s hearing.

“This process is supposed to be publicly informed, but it seems that the DOE is going to extreme lengths to minimize and deter public involvement,” said Hauter.