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If we “Follow the Science on Yucca”, as your May 20 editorial recommends, we would abandon the Department of Energy’s project out of hand. It would not meet federal radiation safety rules. In an unprecedented May 11 decision, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Licensing Boards admitted 299 safety and environmental issues for litigation. It did so in the face of total opposition from DOE for the litigation of even a single issue. The State believes the site to be unsuitable for permanent storage of the nation’s high level waste and spent nuclear fuel.
The Times claims the $196.8 million dollars recommended by the President is insufficient for the Department of Energy to participate adequately in the licensing process. “There is great danger that the department will lack the expertise needed to answer tough technical questions that emerge during the regulatory commission’s reviews.” However, at a meeting this week in Las Vegas, DOE’s representative Dave Zabransky of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management told a meeting of affected units of local government that their outside law firm is funded to appropriately support licensing. The Department of Energy has spent close to $8 billion already on a project that is projected by DOE to cost $96 billion, making it the most expensive engineering project in world history.
The state of Nevada has seen its funding to participate in the licensing process cut even more drastically than DOE’s. For 25 years, this has been a one-sided presentation. DOE has presented it’s “science” and facts in its 8,500+ page application. The licensing application is finally an opportunity for Nevada and other parties to show through its scientists, experts and attorneys that the proposed boondoggle is fatally flawed. Remember, DOE’s scientists are on their payroll. These are not independent scientists performing investigations in which they have no stake in the outcome. Their work is more accurately described as litigation support for DOE’s lawyers who seek a facility license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nevada’s scientists are very critical of DOE’s work. Until the NRC reviews the technical issues, and Nevada has the opportunity to subject DOE’s expert witnesses to cross examination, the DOE’s technical conclusions are nothing more than the initial claims of a license applicant.