Nevadans blast nuke dump site

WASHINGTON - Nevada officials continued Tuesday their criticism of a Department of Energy report about the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., called the environmental impact statement "wholly inadequate" at the final of 17 public hearings sponsored by the department to discuss the report. It was the first such meeting in Washington, D.C.

"It raises more questions than it answers," Bryan added.

The state and the Nye County Commissioners also voiced objections to the report. Commissioners also called the report "inadequate" and called for a more comprehensive edition. But the commissioners maintained their neutral stance toward the proposed repository itself because, officials said, the county collects its own data about the project.

The report, critics said, lacks specifics in at least three areas:

- Specific transportation routes, by rail or highway, to bring the waste to the mountain, located along the state's southern slanting border near Las Vegas, from the 77 facilities around the country.

- Actual waste depository design within the mountain.

- Cumulative socioeconomic and environmental effects of storing 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste.

But energy department officials defended the study. As far as environmental impact studies go, said Abe Van Luik, a senior policy advisor at the department, "This is a very comprehensive one."

At this stage, the department is still collecting data about the project. And an environmental impact statement is not meant to be as detailed as the final license application. Those two factors make it hard to nail down specifics, said Van Luik.

Part of the data being collected is public sentiment, he added.

The Department of Energy released the environmental impact statement in August. The public hearings are a chance for the general public and officials to share concerns about the project. The hearings also offer a chance for the Department of Energy to refine its report before submitting the final version next year.

The proposed site would house spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste. Ninety percent of the waste would be from private power plants. The rest would come from Department of Energy reactors.

If the Yucca Mountain project is approved, Nye County officials said they are asking for protection against environmental damage.

"We are going to have our ground water contaminated. What are they going to do about it?" Les W. Bradshaw, Nye County Department of Natural Resources and Federal Facilities.

Van Luik, of the Energy Department, offered reassurances to Nye County residents.

"Whatever they want, they'll get. It's the right thing to do," he said.

But, he added, it is not up to the Department of Energy to suggest incentives to communities in the environmental impact statement.

The criticism of the report has been sharply divided so far, said Van Luik. Some critics say it is too detailed, at

more than 1,500 pages. Others, such as the Nye County Commissioners and Bryan, want even more specifics.

The public hearings will continue through January, but the Department of Energy will accept comments on the report until Feb. 9.


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