MINDEN - If the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository never holds a single container of high-level radioactive waste, perhaps it could instead store bottles of Bordeaux.
Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, was joking when he said the repository would be better suited as a large wine cellar, which got a laugh from members of the Northern Nevada Development Authority during its Wednesday breakfast meeting at the Carson Valley Inn, but he's serious about keeping nuclear waste out of Nevada.
Located 90 miles from Las Vegas on the Nevada Test Site, the Yucca Mountain Project has been studied for the last 20 years and debated just as long. The opposition contends there is too much water in fractures in the mountain, which could drip onto the containers and cause nuclear waste to flow into the environment.
A Department of Energy spokesman said in a phone interview Wednesday the storage of the nuclear waste 1,000 feet under Yucca Mountain is the right location because of its "significant distance from population centers as well as its extremely dry climate."
But many also oppose the $8 billion already spent on Yucca Mountain, and the total $100 billion it'll cost to complete it.
The last time Loux spoke at a development authority meeting - which was about three years ago - it was a grim time for the Yucca Mountain opposition. In February 2002, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham formally recommended to President Bush that the Yucca Mountain site be used as the repository.
Speaking briskly during his nuclear update, Loux said optimistically that the project is dead, and it'll be less than a year before legislators discontinue the project
He cited several recent events, including a court action that threw out the Environmental Protection Agency's radiation standards for Yucca Mountain, saying the standards don't protect the public health and safety.
The DOE must submit an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but that can't be done until the EPA decides on a new standard for Yucca Mountain, Loux said.
Mike Waldron, an Energy Department spokesman, said when the EPA issues radiation standards this year, the application will be submitted.
"The Yucca Mountain Project is a heavily engineered project that we're sure will protect public safety due to its remote location, but also due to the tremendous engineering that has taken place," he said.
"An American flying from the East Coast to the West would receive a higher dose of radiation than they would by walking on the ridge of Yucca Mountain."
Loux also read a few selections from the Yucca Mountain e-mails, sent between the Energy Department and contractors from 1996 to this year. The e-mails received media attention recently because they document doubts that scientists and managers had about the Yucca Mountain Project.
Loux read a line from one of the e-mails: "I don't have a clue when these programs were installed. So I've made up the dates and names. This is as good as it's going to get. If they need more proof I will be happy to make up more stuff."
This was received with nervous laughter from the audience.
The Energy Department has said the e-mails are simply water cooler chatter.
Loux said if data were falsified according to these e-mails, it's possible other things concerning Yucca Mountain were also falsified.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
On the Net
To view the Yucca Mountain Project e-mails :
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