Falsified Yucca Mtn. Documents Bolster Nuclear Dump's Critics
WASHINGTON, DC, March 17, 2005 (ENS) - Government employees working on the licensing of Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the nation's only permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste "may have falsified documentation of their work," the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledged Wednesday.
The suspected worker was employed by the US Geological Survey (USGS) at the Department of the Interior, and the documentation in question "relates to computer modeling involving water infiltration and climate," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.
This documentation is required as part of the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s quality assurance programs that verify the accuracy and credibility of work that has been completed.
Describing himself as "greatly disturbed" by the revelation, Bodman called the alleged fabrication "completely unacceptable." He has referred the matter to the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General for full investigation.
The DOE has informed the U.S, Geological Survey and the State of Nevada of the alleged falsification.
Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn, a Republican, said, “I am both disappointed and outraged by this development, but hardly surprised."
“All along, the State of Nevada has felt it is our duty to hold the federal government accountable on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump because we would be storing the deadliest substance known to man.”
“This is yet another example as to why Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects has closely monitored the Yucca Mountain project since its inception,” Guinn said. “This comes on the heels of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruling the EPA radiation protection standard was deficient.”
Because the data in question involved computer modeling for water infiltration and climate, the sitution is particularly troubling, Guinn said.
Guinn supports the Energy Secretary's call for a full investigation by DOE’s Office of Inspector General.
U.S. Senators from Nevada John Ensign, a Republican, and Harry Reid, a Democrat seized upon the revelation as vindication for their longstanding position that Yucca Mountain is based on poor science and should not be licensed.
“We in Nevada have said for years that the science at Yucca Mountain is faulty – now it appears the science is fraudulent," Ensign said.
"This latest development provides yet another reason to abandon the misguided notion of storing high-level nuclear waste in Nevada and will hopefully encourage an accelerated discussion of alternatives that are safer and more scientifically sound. "
“This proves once again that DOE must cheat and lie in order to make Yucca Mountain look safe," said Reid. "We aren’t just talking about false documentation on paper, this is about the health and safety of Nevadans and the American people."
The Bush administration, which has approved the Yucca Mountain waste repository, has always insisted that its approval was based on sound science, a position that Secretary Bodman repeated Wednesday.
“The safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste and the sound scientific basis for the repository safety analysis are priorities for this administration and the Department of Energy. All related decisions have been, and will continue to be, based on sound science," Bodman said.
“It should be obvious to everyone now that Yucca Mountain isn’t going anywhere," Reid said.
Both Nevada senators are working together on legislation that would allow waste to be stored on-site at nuclear facilities.
"The tide is turning on Yucca Mountain, and it’s time we look at this viable alternative and realistic approach to long term waste storage,” said Reid.
Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons, a Republican and the sole geologist in Congress, said was not surprised to learn that reports about the safety of Yucca Mountain may have been falsified or fabricated.
“The Department of Energy has initiated a scientific investigation of the data and documentation that was part of this modeling activity," Bodman said.
"If in the course of that review any work is found to be deficient, it will be replaced or supplemented with analysis and documentation that meets appropriate quality assurance standards to ensure that the scientific basis of the project is sound," Bodman said. "We are conducting a thorough review of all work completed by the identified individuals to ensure that other work was not affected."
"The transportation and storage of high level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain has been and always will be an unsafe and unsuitable proposal that I will continue to fight,” said Gibbons.
In addition, Bodman said, the DOE has begun an evalution to determine if the department's quality assurance procedures are "sufficient to prevent the reoccurrence of a similar situation."
"We plan to reemphasize to project personnel the importance of strict adherence to quality assurance procedures," he said.
“The fact remains that this country needs a permanent geological nuclear waste repository, and the administration will continue to aggressively pursue that goal," Bodman said. "We are committed to the safety and protection of the citizens of Nevada as we pursue the development of the Yucca Mountain project.”