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White House Approval of Yucca Mountain Panders to Nuclear Industry Profits, Endangers Public Health and Environment

Feb. 19, 2002

White House Approval of Yucca Mountain Panders to Nuclear Industry Profits, Endangers Public Health and Environment

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

President Bush?s approval of an industry-backed scheme to send 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada, shows a blatant disregard for public health and safety and contradicts his campaign promise to base a decision on “sound science.” After years of study and billions of dollars, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is still unable to demonstrate that the proposed repository could safely contain nuclear waste for the quarter of a million years that it will remain dangerously radioactive. The DOE?s own analyses indicate that it?s only a question of when ? not if   waste isolation systems at Yucca Mountain would fail and allow radioactivity to contaminate the surrounding environment.

Moreover, transporting deadly nuclear waste to the proposed repository would introduce new risks in the 45 states along likely shipment routes. Millions of Americans live near the roads and rails slated to become nuclear waste thoroughfares if the Yucca Mountain Project comes to fruition. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not require full-scale physical testing of nuclear waste transportation casks that would be used for Yucca Mountain shipments. A severe nuclear waste transportation accident could result in a release of radiation and cost billions of dollars to clean up.

The administration?s irresponsible assertions that the proposed repository would address national security concerns are inaccurate and do not address the project?s dangerous deficiencies. Far from consolidating this country?s nuclear waste problem, the proposed repository would create an additional contaminated site, and the tens of thousands of cross-country shipments would themselves be terrorist targets. Because of statutory capacity limits, a Yucca Mountain repository could not contain all the high-level nuclear waste projected to be generated by U.S. nuclear reactors. Further, high-level nuclear waste will continue to be stored on site at each operating reactor, even if a repository is established.

To protect public health and safety we urge Congress to reject the Yucca Mountain Project.