In what could be a crushing blow to Bush administration plans to store the nation’s nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, the Energy Department has announced that federal scientists may have misrepresented findings regarding the potential for water to seep into and jeopardize storage facilities at the controversial site.
Without revealing any more specifics, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman reported last week that “certain employees of the U.S. Geological Survey … may have falsified documentation of their work” on Yucca Mountain from 1998 to 2000.
Ever since Yucca Mountain was proposed as the nation’s central repository for nuclear waste, federal scientists have maintained that little or no water could penetrate 800 feet into the site where more than 150 million pounds of radioactive nuclear waste is slated for storage.
Meanwhile, opponents of developing Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste storage—including environmentalists and most Nevada residents—contend that water could seep into the mountain, corrode the metal waste storage canisters, and contaminate the water supply on which nearby communities, such as Las Vegas 90 miles away, depend.
The Bush administration has been pushing for the creation of new nuclear power plants as a key aspect of its beleaguered energy plan. But new facilities can only be created if the government has a satisfactory method of storing the radioactive waste generated. Indeed, if Yucca Mountain is taken off the table after two decades of study and debate, it could sound the death knell for the expansion of nuclear power in the U.S.