Cracks at Yucca Mountain

We can only hope the scientists working for the Department of Energy are doing a better job than the consultants.

Or maybe it's the people picking the consultants.

Or, perhaps, just the people examing whether the consultants have a conflict of interest.

Whatever credibility the DOE had in Nevada - which, some may argue, was nil - disappeared last week with an article in the New York Times.

The Times ' Matthew L. Wald reported that a law firm hired by the DOE to give advice on opening a nuclear-waste dump at Yucca Mountain was also being paid by the nuclear power industry to lobby Congress to approve the project.

Small world, huh?

Confronted with this obvious conflict of interest, DOE spokeswoman Jill Schroeder said, "We found them eminently qualified. We have not found a conflict of interest."

It's a good thing Yucca is a damn big mountain, because apparently there are people at DOE who would have a hard time finding it, too.

The law firm, Winston & Strawn, apparently has been part of the $4.5 billion Yucca Mountain industry since 1992.

It has been sued by a competing law firm for another potential conflict of interest, in which the DOE paid Winston & Strawn to review an application that Winston & Strawn had helped prepare for Yucca Mountain's main contractor.

If the Department of Energy didn't see that as a conflict of interest, then perhaps there is no such thing when it comes to the Yucca Mountain repository.

At the risk of being redundant, it is worth repeating the U.S. Department of Energy is supposed to be conducting an unbiased study of Yucca Mountain. It is also worth noting the DOE has long given up its impartiality, except for the facade maintained by its administrators.

Every time another piece of evidence like this one unearthed by the New York Times rises to the surface, the cracks in the facade become a bit more obvious.


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