Nuclear Projects Director Bob Loux says Nevada is apparently getting more time to comment on the Yucca Mountain draft environmental impact statement.
The document is an environmental blueprint which says the site 100 miles north of Las Vegas can be made into a safe place to store the nation's high-level nuclear waste.
The original comment period closed Feb. 28, but Loux and Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., pointed out to the Department of Energy that the Federal Register notice inviting comments on the draft environmental impact statement contained the wrong address.
"As a result, many of those letters have simply been returned to Nevadans unopened and unexamined," said Bryan in asking the comment period be reopened and extended.
"They screwed up," said Loux. "But my understanding is they admitted the mistake and are going to put out a new Federal Register notice giving everyone another two weeks to resubmit the comments."
Loux said that should give people who got their letters back enough time to mail them to the correct address.
But he said he's still not sure the comments will get fair consideration since the cutoff for new information to be used in the Yucca Mountain Site Recommendation Report was last August.
That report is the basis for the Department of Energy secretary's recommendation to the president on whether to order construction of the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.
"I'm not sure what the purpose of all this information is if they've already cut off all added information," said Loux.
He said more critical is whether that cutoff means the report will ignore the results of two studies still under way.
He said DOE "had a hand in initiating" studies on whether groundwater periodically floods the proposed storage dump and the dangers of potential stretching and cracking of the ground at Yucca Mountain.
Researchers reported two years ago that satellite data showed excessive stretching and bulging of the ground in the Yucca Mountain area.
Loux said DOE is financing those studies, but they won't be finished until spring of 2001.
"And both of them have potential showstoppers," he said.
The state's arguments that groundwater could flood the underground dump and the danger to the storage canisters from earthquakes and ground-faults are two of the biggest issues in determining whether Yucca Mountain would be a safe place to store nuclear waste.
"If science and not politics is to be the deciding factor in making decisions about the Yucca Mountain site, DOE should revise the schedule for making a site recommendation until there is a final design for the repository and all of these crucial studies are complete and the data is in," Loux said in a letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.