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Leak of Yucca Nuclear Data to U.S. Is Alleged

November 03, 2001|From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is investigating whether an internal document was leaked to help the Energy Department prepare an application to bury the nation's radioactive waste in Nevada.

State officials say a draft of the NRC's license review plan was given to a lawyer for Winston & Strawn, a firm doing legal work on the Department of Energy application for a license to operate the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The commission is sending inspectors to Las Vegas to continue an investigation begun last week, commission spokeswoman Sue Gagner said.

Bob Loux, head of the Nevada state Nuclear Projects Office, said Friday that two sources told him multiple copies of the licensing review plan were distributed in the Las Vegas Department of Energy office.

He said that if the reports are true, it would indicate an improperly close relationship between the regulatory agency and the project applicant.

"It would be sort of like having the answers to the test before you take it," said Loux, Gov. Kenny Guinn's appointee working to block the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

It was unclear if the investigation would prompt Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to postpone his recommendation to President Bush about whether to go ahead with the Yucca Mountain plan.

The Energy Department recently closed the public comment period on its study of whether the nation's 77,000 tons of radioactive commercial, industrial and military waste should be entombed beneath Yucca Mountain.

The site is at the western edge of the Nevada Test Site and is the only place in the nation being studied.

Project managers have said Abraham's recommendation should be made by the end of the year.

Nevada's congressional delegation, including Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, and many state and local officials are fighting the proposal.

Reid called for an investigation of whether the license review plan found its way into the hands of officials within the Yucca Mountain Project.

"Such a release would seriously undermine the credibility of both the NRC and DOE," he said in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Inspector General Hubert T. Bell, "and likely is a violation of NRC and DOE rules and applicable laws."

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