Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Fraud Allegations Roil Yucca Mountain Project

Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Fraud Allegations Roil Yucca Mountain Project

Article excerpt

Nevada's representatives in the House are using a report alleging fraud as a new means of scuttling the construction of a permanent repository site for high-level nuclear waste in their state. On April 5, Rep. John Porter (R-Nev.), chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization, convened a hearing to probe fraud allegations at the Yucca Mountain project. The charges stemmed from a March report by Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman that several U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees may have falsified documents relating to their work on the project.

At the hearing, House members from Nevada expressed outrage and called for a criminal investigation into the matter. The committee was particularly concerned with recently disclosed email messages that seemed to portray attempts by federal employees to circumvent quality assurance (QA) procedures. One USGS employee wrote in 1999, "In the end I keep track of 2 sets of files, the ones that will keep QA happy and the ones that were actually used."

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) painted the allegations as a continuation of problems that have plagued the project to build a nuclear waste repository and urged members to consult the fault-finding 2004 Government Accountability Office report (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04460.pdf). Asserting that "Yucca Mountain is based on a lie," Berkley said he believed that the project was finally "... collapsing before our very eyes." She called for a complete halt to the Yucca Mountain project.

Rep. James Gibbons (R-Nev.) warned the Department of Energy (DOE) not to downplay the incident as "paperwork problems" or to continue in their mindset of "damage control." Stating that Yucca Mountain was selected for "purely political reasons," he compared the allegations to chief executive officers "cooking the books" for Enron and WorldCom. …

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