DOE Schedules Public Hearings on Yucca Mountain Amid Protests

DOE Begins Acid Canyon Cleanup

* In late August, the Department of Energy (or DOE) scheduled a series of three public hearings to recommend Yucca Mountain as the site for the nationšs high-level nuclear waste repository. The hearings are set for September 5th through 13th in Nevada. DOE has come under attack in recent days for prematurely scheduling hearings without a basis for recommending the site. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act mandates that DOE hold hearings in the Yucca Mountain area prior to recommending Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. DOE has bypassed this step. Activists are concerned that the required environmental impact statement has not been released, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not issued licensing regulations, and the DOE is relying on proposed changes to siting guidelines that have not yet been finalized.

In Las Vegas, the meeting was originally scheduled to be held at the Suncoast Casino. The casino declined to host the event. The meeting was moved to a National Nuclear Security Administration building, a support building for DOE's atomic weapons testing program. The building is situated in an industrial area and is surrounded by a chain-link fence and armed security guards. The move was announced just days before the hearings and an incorrect address was given for the new location. Says Wenonah Hauter, of the activist group Public Citizen, "The DOE is making a mockery of the process for public participation."

Also, DOE has offered no opportunity for public hearings along the transportation routes. Projected transportation scenarios indicate that 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste from commercial nuclear reactors and DOE weapons facilities would be shipped through 43 states on a network of highways and railroads. The waste would travel within a half-mile of schools, homes and workplaces of approximately 50 million Americans. Because of projected transportation by rail and truck through New Mexico, CCNS has requested a public hearing in Albuquerque.

Said Hauter, "The DOE is afraid to publicize the details of this dangerous and unprecedented plan for cross-country nuclear waste shipments. The agency is trying to downplay the significance of this proposal to mute widespread public opposition." Public Citizen has requested that DOE cancel the hearings until the outstanding technical and regulatory issues are resolved.

DOE Begins Acid Canyon Cleanup

Cleanup for the South Fork of Acid Canyon is scheduled to begin this week. The South Fork of Acid Canyon is a Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) waste dump turned Los Alamos County Park located between the Los Alamos municipal swimming pool and the skateboard park. DOE plans to clean the park to an average of 280 picoCuries per gram of plutonium left in the soil.

Citizens are concerned about the amount of plutonium that DOE has decided to leave in Acid Canyon. In a California park, which DOE contaminated, DOE must remove all plutonium above 2.5 picoCuries per gram. New Mexico activists are questioning the double standard. Even on LANL's own property, cleanup levels are 10 times lower than levels proposed for Acid Canyon.

Steve Yanicak, of the DOE Oversight Bureau, supports cleanup of Acid Canyon and calls the plutonium in the park an "unacceptable risk."

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