Nevada lawmakers accuse DOE of bias in nuke waste dump
WASHINGTON - Nevadas congressional delegation and a consumer advocacy group called Tuesday for a federal investigation into whether the US Energy Department acted improperly to help the nuclear industry win approval of a Nevada site for a nuclear waste dump.
The DOE has been studying the states Yucca Mountain site to determine if is suitable to be a permanent home for some 70,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste from US commercial nuclear reactors and weapons facilities.
A DOE internal memo, obtained by advocacy group Public Citizen, said the departments soon-to-be-released site recommendation report would provide information that US utilities can use to express support for Yucca Mountain.
Critics said the memo indicated the DOE has already made up its mind to approve the remote site even though scientific research on environmental concerns was still underway.
"The apparent bias on behalf of the DOE and its contractors with regard to approving Yucca Mountain as a high-level nuclear waste storage site, before a suitability study is completed, shows gross negligence and cannot be tolerated," said Rep. James Gibbons, a Nevada Republican.
Gibbons and other Nevada lawmakers, who oppose the project, asked the General Accounting Office to investigate whether the department had already made up its mind about Yucca Mountain.
The Energy Departments independent inspector general agreed earlier this month to investigate at the request of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat.
"The inspector generals investigation will focus on whether the DOE has already acted inappropriately, and I will continue watching every single step of the way to make sure there is ample time to guarantee an independent, objective assessment of the site," Reid said.
Opponents of Yucca Mountain contend that the huge amounts of nuclear waste could contaminate groundwater or be released during an earthquake. Nevada ranks third in the nation for seismic activity.
In April, President Bill Clinton vetoed a bill mandating the construction of a waste dump at Yucca Mountain, citing environmental concerns.
Eleven of the nations 103 nuclear power plants have sued the federal government for breaking an agreement to store spent nuclear fuel starting in 1998. The lawsuits are seeking some $5 billion from the government, and more lawsuits are likely as utilities run out of space to store radioactive material.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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