Chairman backs Yucca project

LAS VEGAS -- The chairman of an independent advisory board on nuclear waste issues is facing criticism this week after co-authoring a newspaper opinion piece declaring radioactive waste can be "stored safely at Yucca Mountain."

It was not the first time Michael Corradini had expressed a public opinion on the Yucca Mountain Project. The latest comments disturbed other members of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, who earlier this year asked Corradini to resign over earlier remarks about the project, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Saturday.

The opinion piece also reignited complaints from Nevada officials about Corradini. In February, the state's federal lawmakers called on President Bush to remove him from the influential advisory panel.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday he is considering legislation to terminate the $3.2 million science board. He said its credibility and impartiality are being compromised by Corradini.

"This guy is out of control," Reid said. "Anyone with a sense of fairness would tell the guy to leave."

Corradini, chairman of the physics engineering department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was appointed by Bush in June 2002 to head the board whose members are academic experts in engineering, geology, materials science and ecology.

The board monitors how the Energy Department is performing on technical aspects of the Yucca Mountain Project and reports its findings to Congress.

Though they may have personal opinions about Yucca Mountain, advisory board members caution each other to refrain from expressing any views that might create appearances of conflict or bias, board member Norman Christensen said.

"I think the members of the board are very troubled" by the article, said Christensen, an ecology professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. The opinion piece was published Wednesday in the Capital Times, a Wisconsin newspaper. It was co-authored by Corradini, Max Carbon, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, researcher John Murphy and professor Paul Wilson.

In arguing Wisconsin should end its moratorium on new nuclear plants, the authors write nuclear power is safe and economical.

They state that "nuclear waste can be stored safely at Yucca Mountain," and "the transportation of spent nuclear fuel is safe" because shipping containers that will carry waste to Nevada "are nearly indestructible."

Corradini could not be reached for comment Friday.

In the past, Corradini has defended his views, saying he has conducted his advisory board work with objectivity.

Corradini expressed similar views about Yucca Mountain in congressional testimony in 2001. That, plus Corradini's continued membership on an Energy Department nuclear advisory board, prompted months of discussion among board members about conflicts and appearances.

In April, the nine other members of the technical review board signed a letter declaring the board's credibility and effectiveness were "in serious jeopardy," and asked Corradini to resign, board members and staff said Friday.

Corradini declined, according to Christensen and others.

"It was our feeling the issue had gone far enough, partly because of the internal concerns of the board about conflicts in general, " Christensen said. "This issue had risen to a point it was affecting the effectiveness of the board."


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