Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Council Requests Designation as an Affected
Tribe In Order to Participate in Yucca Mountain Project Planning Process
U.S. Geological Survey Report Finds Floodwaters Could Drain from Yucca
Mountain to Nearby Communities
The Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Council recently requested that
Interior Secretary Gale Norton designate the sovereign nation as an
affected tribe for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository,
located in Nevada. Such a determination would allow the Death Valley,
California tribe to participate fully in the Yucca Mountain Project
planning process. Yucca Mountain, located 50 miles east of Death Valley
and 95 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the Department of Energy's proposed
site for the disposal of 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste from
nuclear power plants and defense activities.
In a statement issued by Council Chairwoman Pauline Esteves and
Administrator Barbara Durham, the leaders said that the tribe's "primary
interest is in ensuring that a culturally appropriate understanding of site
characterization is obtained to address issues of tribal health and
safety." Furthermore, "[u]nderstanding the tribal community life-ways is
crucial to identifying past experiences, present concerns and possible
future threats. Through participation of the tribe, studies would promote
reasonable assurance ... that the tribe and environments will be adequately
protected from the hazards posed by high-level nuclear waste."
No tribes have obtained the affected status from the Interior
Oversight funding may be available to the tribe from Congress. The
President's proposed budget requests nearly $6 million in oversight funding
for ten affected local governments, including Clark and Nye Counties, and
an additional $2.5 million for oversight by the State of Nevada.
* A U.S. Geological Survey study shows that floodwater runoff from
the Yucca Mountain site moves into communities nearby, and could carry
radiation from the proposed high-level waste repository, should it open.
The report reveals that flash flooding in a 300-square-mile area,
that includes Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site, could close highways
and disrupt nuclear waste shipments. The flooding could also interfere
with the above-ground repository operations.
The Department of Energy (or DOE) downplayed the findings. The
Yucca Mountain Project spokeswoman said, ''It's not news that the area
floods, that's why it's called Forty-Mile Wash.''
The report found that contaminated water could travel as far as
Death Valley, the home of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe.
The report concludes that the Amargosa River ''has the potential to
transport dissolved and particulate matter well beyond the boundary of the
(Nevada Test Site) and the Yucca Mountain area during periods of moderate
to severe streamflow."
DOE has prepared a draft Yucca Mountain environmental impact
statement, but it does not consider runoff into the Forty-Mile Wash or
Topopah Wash, the subjects of the U.S. Geological Survey report. DOE
released a supplement to the draft environmental statement that considers a
cooler repository design for the high-level waste that will concentrate
large amount of heat in the facility. After 20 years of study, scientists
are still making substantial repository design changes. The final
environmental impact statement is expected to be released at the end of the
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