WASHINGTON -- Activists plan a campaign to ensure the Energy Department fully discloses routes that would be used to ship nuclear waste to Nevada if a waste repository is built at Yucca Mountain.
They said Friday they don't want the Yucca project to become an example of "environmental racism," where it is charged the government and industry locate dangerous plants in minority and low-income communities, promising jobs but not disclosing health hazards.
Mildred McClain, a leader of Citizens for Environmental Justice of Savannah, Ga., said a nuclear waste effort will begin shortly and continue as routes are identified to transport radioactive materials to Nevada.
"We are in the next few weeks going to be working with communities on the routes to ask them to put pressure on their local and state officials to get involved with this decision," McClain said.
"We're calling for information," she said. "We're calling for things not to be cloaked in national security so all of us would be prepared for an accident or critical incident."
McClain called on Congress to rescind its approval of the Yucca Mountain site, but said she recognized that would take "an act of God or a miracle."
Energy Department officials have said they will announce a Yucca Mountain transportation strategy next year and will designate routes five years before a repository opens after gathering comments from governors. Current plans anticipate a 2010 opening.
The Yucca Mountain Project and other nuclear and chemical programs were discussed by three dozen representatives of Hispanic, black and American Indian groups gathered for an "environmental justice" conference.
Participants protested DOE efforts in New Mexico, Tennessee, South Carolina and Washington state that they said have threatened neighborhood health.
The groups announced a new initiative begun with $500,000 in funding from the Peace Development Fund, a Massachusetts group that finances social change groups.
Grants will let community organizers acquire technical expertise to weigh nuclear and chemical projects, they said.