A Yucca Mountain of paperwork to do
September 1, 2004
Why were we worried about Yucca Mountain? Oh, we know the reasons – geological fault lines and underground aquifers, leaky casks and nationwide transportation, shaky science and political gamesmanship.
But we overlooked a significant factor in the process than could mean the nuclear-waste repository is a long ways from being started in Southern Nevada. Federal bureaucracy.
This week, a federal board which oversees such things said the Department of Energy had failed to provide electronically all its documents supporting the Yucca Mountain project.
The DOE argued it had posted some 5.6 million pages of documents. Lawyers for the state of Nevada countered that about 30 million hadn’t been posted, nor had about 4 million e-mails.
The posting of documents for anyone to read (at http://www.lsnnet.gov) is an important part of the open process of planning the nuclear repository. It’s something the Energy Department agreed to do, and now the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is holding it to that promise.
How long it will take to produce the rest of the documents seems to be anybody’s guess.
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The Atomic Safety board’s opinion is that it won’t take the Energy Department “a significant amount of time.” That would be a matter of a few months, apparently throwing a wrench in the department’s plan to submit an application for the repository by the end of this year.
Yet the Energy Department had 15 years to get ready before it announced on June 30 that all the documents were available. It didn’t make it.
We don’t mean to overstate the importance of this particular deadline, but we simply haven’t seen much evidence from the Department of Energy over the years that it can actually accomplish a project as risky and complex as Yucca Mountain.