Yucca Mountain EIS criticized as incomplete

A draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear site was called inadequate, incomplete and not in compliance with federal requirements.

Speakers making statements Thursday during a brief public hearing in Carson City also questioned why the Nevada site remains the only one studied and why the only alternative to using Yucca Mountain is "no action."

About 100 people gathered in a fourth-floor meeting room in the Nevada Legislative Building for a brief question and answer session. About 70 of those attending were seventh-graders from Eagle Valley Middle School.

Judy Schenkle, representing Mineral County, said the draft statement did not properly address the effect on local government of transporting spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to a long-term storage facility at Yucca Mountain.

"Most of the materials will be transported through the northern half of Nevada to the site. The rural counties do not have the money to handle a nuclear waste accident," Schenkle said.

"The materials will come from 43 states through a transportation system that is not proven and possibly dangerous.

"The costs to clean up after a radioactive accident probably would exceed the costs to develop an alternative to Yucca Mountain," Schenkle said.

She said the proposed storage facility would not solve the nation's problems with radioactive waste and might make them worse. She recommended the materials be reprocessed and reused.

During the question period, Lucille Sustacha, of Fallon, asked, "Why not store it on Johnson Atoll, in the South Pacific, where we tested atomic bombs?"

Wendy Dixon, U.S. Department of Energy project manager, said that Congress had mandated the department study only Yucca Mountain's potential for a storage site.

Russell DeBartello of the Clark County Nuclear Waste Division said he had little hope the statement would reflect the actual effect of the repository on local communities.

Those would include financial losses to businesses caused by the stigma of having a nuclear dump site so close, waste transportation routes that apparently will cut through the planned "Las Vegas Town Center" and higher insurance rates for area residents and businesses.

DeBartello said his office helps represent not only Clark County, but also less populous counties, Native American tribes and "down-winders" in the area of the proposed repository.

Carson City resident Kaitlin Bocklund, state director of Citizen Alert, said the federal rules for such statements require examination of reasonable alternatives. The sole "no action" alternative cannot be considered reasonable, she said.

"To leave the existing materials in place for thousands of years is not reasonable. To leave it on site for 100 years in dry casks is not reasonable," Bocklund said.

"This was a politically expedient process to get the statement to this stage - it was not scientifically based," she said. "The guidelines set up at the beginning to protect the environment and Nevada's citizens have all been adjusted to accommodate that process."

Student Nick Haney said Department of Energy documents show that trucks carrying hot-waste casks will travel highways along Navy bombing ranges, where he said heat-seeking missiles are fired. He said he did not understand how the department was going to lessen that risk.

Nicole Johnson, another seventh-grader, said, "I've lived in Nevada all my life and I want to keep it safe for my and future generations."

Hearings were held Wednesday in Reno and Thursday evening Carson City. Written comments and exhibits are being taken through Feb. 9, 2000.

The draft statement was released at the beginning of September. The two-volume summary is over three and a half inches thick, but the supporting documentation would stack 75 feet high.


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