Thursday, March 31, 2005

FBI Reportedly Studies Possible Yucca Mountain Fraud

The FBI is investigating possible document falsification by workers on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project in Nevada, a congressional staffer said Wednesday.

Chad Bungard, deputy staff director and chief counsel for a House Government Reform subcommittee, said he learned of the probe from the inspector general's office at the Department of Interior, which also was investigating.
Bungard's panel is holding a hearing on the possible document falsification next week, and staffers are preparing to release e-mails from a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist that suggest the falsification occurred.

The e-mails were written from 1998 to 2000 and circulated among scientists studying how water moves through the planned dumpsite, a key issue in determining whether radiation could escape, and how much.

USGS scientists validated Energy Department conclusions that water seepage was relatively slow, so radiation would be less likely to escape.

The Energy and Interior departments revealed the existence of the e-mails March 16, and handed them over Tuesday to the House Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce and agency organization.

The subcommittee, led by Rep. Jon C. Porter (R-Nev.), plans to make redacted versions public on Friday.

"We don't want to compromise the criminal investigation," Bungard said, adding that the agencies were doing the redacting.

The Energy Department inspector general is also investigating the suspected document falsification, and the department is conducting a scientific review as well.

The revelation about the potentially falsified documents was the latest setback to the planned dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Yucca Mountain, approved by Congress in 2002, is planned as the nation's only underground repository for 77,000 tons of defense waste and used reactor fuel from commercial power plants. The material is supposed to be buried for at least 10,000 years.

But the project has suffered serious problems, including funding shortfalls and an appeals court decision last summer that is forcing a rewrite of radiation exposure limits for the site. The Energy Department recently abandoned a planned 2010 completion date, and department officials have not given a new date.

As it begins to dawn on the powers that be that the fossil fuel well is running dry, the energy cartel is going to start pushing nuclear energy again-- and the American public will accept anything that doesn't require conservaton or giving up 3-ton SUVs.

So continuing SNAFUs at the last best hope for a dumpsite are going to loom increasingly large, unless, of course, they can be convered up. But Nevada's (justifiable) NIMBY backlash may make that difficult.


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