Energy secretary ready to make decision after Yucca Mountain tour

Governor mounting resistance to using site

By Sylvie Dale
Online Editor

Jan. 8, 2002 – Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says he has the information he needs to make a recommendation to the president following a tour of the Yucca Mountain tunnel near Las Vegas Monday.

Abraham said he will soon make his recommendation to President Bush on whether the U.S. should proceed with its plans to use Yucca Mountain to store 77,000 tons of radioactive nuclear waste which currently sits in temporary storage across the nation, the Associated Press reported. The energy secretary was at the site to see the latest geologic test results and meet with Gov. Kenny Guinn, but did not indicate what he would recommend to the president.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid appeared Monday with Sen. John Ensign, Gov. Kenny Guinn and other elected officials in downtown Las Vegas to protest the use of the site for nuclear waste storage.

Guinn, who originally supported the idea, has recently spoken out in opposition after the siting guidelines were changed.

The state of Nevada on Dec. 17 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals, saying that the Yucca Mountain Siting Guidelines that became effective on Dec. 14 were not what Congress intended. It is one of three lawsuits the state has filed against the project.

“In light of the fact the General Accounting Office has stated that the Yucca Mountain

Project should be indefinitely postponed based on the views expressed by Bechtel SAIC, a private contactor for the Department of Energy, it is irresponsible and irrational for the Yucca Mountain project to move forward at this time,” Guinn said. “There are also issues surrounding the security and public health risks associated with the transporting of deadly nuclear waste across the United States that must first be addressed.”

According to the GAO study, Bechtel SAIC is credited with stating that DOE cannot possibly meet its aggressive schedule for Yucca Mountain given the myriad of outstanding scientific and engineering issues yet to be resolved.

The lawsuit asks that Abraham be prevented from making recommendations on Yucca Mountain until the siting rules are reviewed by the courts.

After a public hearing in December, Abraham said his staff would perform a thorough review of scientific studies and the 1,000-plus comments he has received so far, and that his decision would be based on compelling national interest, AP said.

Guinn has said that even if the battle to delay Abraham’s recommendation is lost, his group will keep fighting the project. “The federal government and the nuclear industry have been put on notice that Nevada will fight this project every step of the way, and we will prevail,” he said in a statement.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was amended in 1987 to direct DOE to study only Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to determine its suitability as a repository site for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Nuclear waste now is stored in casks at 103 commercial reactors and other industrial and military sites around the country.

Congress has asked for Abraham’s recommendation by Feb. 28.


More information about the Yucca Mountain Project, including the Final EPA Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain (40 CFR 197) is on the DOE web site at:

For more information about the Nevada Protection Fund, visit the web site at

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