LAS VEGAS — The head of a panel of scientists reviewing plans for a national nuclear waste dump in Nevada is quitting, telling President Bush that allegations of conflict of interest are hampering the board's work.
One Nevada lawmaker opposed to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository welcomed the departure of Michael Corradini from the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, saying he "displayed a wanton disregard for impartiality."
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) issued a statement Wednesday faulting Corradini for saying the waste can be safely stored in Nevada while the state disputes the project's safety.
Corradini, in a letter sent Tuesday to the White House, made his resignation from the 10-member appointed panel effective Jan. 12. He declined comment Wednesday.
"It is my view that I do not have a conflict of interest," his letter said, "nor are my professional activities as a university professor and researcher in nuclear reactor safety a source of potential conflicts of interest."
Corradini, chairman of the physics engineering department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was appointed by Bush in June 2002 to head the panel of academic experts in engineering, geology, materials science and ecology.
Corradini wrote that since he became chairman, board staff and members have had to respond to inquiries about perceived conflicts of interest.
The Nevada congressional delegation had called for Corradini's removal, saying he could not be objective. The state's five federal lawmakers sent a letter to the White House in February saying his appointment to the board "seriously undermined" trust in the board's credibility.
Conflict of interest questions came up again in October, after Corradini co-wrote an opinion piece for a Wisconsin newspaper saying that storing waste at Yucca Mountain could be done safely.