Reid wants investigation into Yucca Mountain report

LAS VEGAS - Nevada Sen. Harry Reid plans to ask the Department of Energy's inspector general to investigate whether criminal laws were violated in the drafting of a report that recommends Yucca Mountain as the nation's high-level nuclear waste dump.

''I think what the DOE did was wrong and probably illegal,'' Reid told the Las Vegas Sun for a story in Wednesday's newspaper. ''You can't do a biased report to jerk people around who are opposed to storing nuclear waste in Nevada.''

Reid, elected Tuesday to a second two-year term as assistant Democratic leader, said he would send a letter requesting the investigation to the DOE's inspector general in Washington by the end of the week.

Last week, after the Sun reported that it had obtained documents suggesting the DOE was collaborating with the nuclear industry to recommend Yucca Mountain, Reid said he would conduct his own congressional investigation into the DOE's actions.

He said he would use his Environment and Public Works Committee, which has oversight of the nation's high-level nuclear waste plan, as a springboard for public hearings in Washington early next year.

With Congress headed for a historic 50-50 split, Reid, as the committee's ranking Democrat, could become the panel's chairman or co-chairman next year, giving him even more influence in the fight against Yucca Mountain.

Reid's call for an internal DOE investigation topped an outpouring of reaction from Nevada officials angry with the federal agency.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said Wednesday the DOE has lost credibility with him.

He said he wants to call a summit of elected leaders in Nevada and Washington to discuss a strategy to counter the latest developments coming out of the DOE.

''We need to sit down and re-examine our position,'' Guinn said. ''I'm still extremely disappointed. We worked very openly and diligently with the DOE.''

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., also kept up the pressure on the DOE, sending a ''dear colleague'' letter to her fellow House members on Capitol Hill condemning the agency's actions.

In Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said she will ask the Legislative Commission, which meets Monday in Carson City, to send a letter to the DOE voicing its outrage over the agency's biased dealings.

Assembly Speaker-elect Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said he plans to push for a bipartisan resolution taking the DOE to task when the Legislature convenes in February.

''This is what's wrong with government,'' Perkins said. ''This is not surprising, but even I didn't think the DOE would stoop this low.''

Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, meanwhile, sent a letter to Guinn backing his criticism of the DOE, but suggesting the state has no grounds to seek legal action against the agency as a result of the documents.

The newspaper reported Friday that it had obtained a draft of a 60-page DOE overview that concludes Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is safe to store the radioactive waste, even though a study of the Nevada site has not been completed.

Attached to the draft is a two-page reviewer's note, put together by DOE contractors, that suggests the overview is designed to help nuclear industry officials sell the Yucca Mountain Project to Congress.

Federal law prohibits the DOE from taking sides during the site selection process.


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