The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has initiated an investigation into allegations by its own employees that data used in suitability studies done six years ago on the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository located in Nevada may have been falsified.
In a brief press statement USGS Director Chip Groat reveals that the Department of Energy had notified the Department of the Interior that e-mails by USGS employees had raised serious questions about the Yucca Mountain review process.
USGS employees involved in studying water infiltration and climate at the Yucca Mountain site during the 1998-2000 period, are alleged to have committed "improprieties" after moving into the quality assurance phase imposed by the Department of Energy to begin the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing process. The e-mails indicated that the USGS employees may have falsified documentation of their work.
"Serious questions have been raised about quality assurance practices performed in 1998-2000 by USGS scientists on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project for the Department of Energy," Groat wrote. "Two actions are underway to investigate these issues. First, I have referred the matter to the Inspector General for action. Second, I have initiated an internal review of the allegations. Once the facts are known, appropriate actions will be taken. USGS remains committed to maintaining scientific excellence."
In a press statement released shortly after the USGS announcement, President of Public Citizen Joan Claybrook expressed concern that, if proven true, the use of falsified computer modeling data about Yucca Mountain called into question the entire scientific basis of the U.S. Department of Energys (DOE) license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for use of the site as a nuclear waste storage facility.
"This is further proof that the government has relied on manipulated data, not evidence-based science, in reviewing the only site being considered for a national dumping ground for the countrys 77,000 tons of nuclear waste, which remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years," wrote Claybrook.
In 1998, more than 200 public interest organizations petitioned the DOE to immediately disqualify the Yucca Mountain, Nevada site and declare it unsuitable for further consideration as a high-level nuclear waste repository due to the finding of chlorine-36 at elevated levels deep within the mountain. The finding indicated that water flows through Yucca Mountain quickly, contrary to the prediction of the governments water infiltration models of the site.
Government Says Site is Safe
Since its inclusion as part of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, the Yucca Mountain project has racked up over $4 billion worth of scientific and environmental studies which, say government experts, prove the site poses no threat to nearby residents or to persons along nuclear waste transport routes.
Background on Yucca Mountain
Here are a few highlights from more than 20 years of debate on the feasibility and safety of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility: