Nevada's Governor Guinn Vetoes Yucca Mountain Decision

DOE Retracts Report Outlining Cleanup Cuts at INEEL

* Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn vetoed President Bush's recommendation for the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository by filing his Notice of Disapproval with both houses of Congress this week. Declaring the veto a wake-up call for America, Guinn stated in an address at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that "Yucca Mountain is not safe, it is not suitable and we will expose the Department of Energy's dirty little secrets about [it]."

Nevada was given the right to veto the President's recommendation in the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. In 1987, Congress chose Yucca Mountain as the only site for study to dispose of dangerous nuclear waste. The Department of Energy (or DOE) plans to dispose of 77,000 tons of high-level waste in Yucca Mountain, which is in an earthquake zone and above an aquifer.

Guinn dedicated his decision to "...each and every one of you who have battled against a project that would be detrimental to the public health and safety of our citizens, our precious natural resources, and our economy, and to the other 43 states and hundreds of cities and towns in America through which this dangerous waste will be transported."

Environmental and public advocacy groups praised Guinn's veto. Wenonah Hauter, of Public Citizen said, "This issue concerns not only Nevada, but virtually the entire country. Roads, rails, and waterways in 44 states would become thoroughfares for dangerous radioactive waste shipments en route to Yucca Mountain. Elected leaders in other states should join Governor Guinn in opposing this unjustifiably risky project."

The DOE estimates that 3,999 truck shipments or as many as 952 train shipments of this lethal cargo could travel through New Mexico along Interstate 40 and Interstate 10. Train shipments would travel through Clovis, Belen, Grants, and Gallup.

Congress now has 90 days to overturn the veto by a simple majority in each house.

* DOE this week retracted a draft report that it submitted to the state of Idaho in February that outlined plans to cut cleanup at the Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (or INEEL). The report, which was obtained and released to the public last week by the Snake River Alliance, Idaho's nuclear watchdog, details DOE's plans for cheaper, less thorough cleanup of INEEL, which is located above the Snake River Aquifer, the main aquifer serving southern Idaho.

The report reveals two faster, cheaper methods DOE was considering for cleanup of Pit 9, a nuclear waste burial site, on INEEL property. The first option includes stabilizing and capping waste outside of Pit 9's boundaries. The second option involves simply capping the waste outside the boundary of Pit 9 without stabilization. A change in INEEL's cleanup plan would cut the cleanup budget from $34.4 billion to under $20 billion.

However, DOE has retracted the report, claiming that it "no longer reflects" the government's thinking. Beatrice Brailsford of Snake River Alliance disagrees, saying, "...That they would send this as a final report is a good indicator of what they want to do." Snake River Alliance and the state of Idaho are requesting a full cleanup of the INEEL site.

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