State challenges radiation standards for Yucca Mountain brholvs1 |

State challenges radiation standards for Yucca Mountain brholvs1

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The state of Nevada filed suit Wednesday in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging recently issued federal radiation standards for a possible high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa said the state agrees with some aspects of the Environmental Protection Agency standards, but objects to a limit of 10,000 years on the standards.

Del Papa, joined by Gov. Kenny Guinn, said 10,000 years doesn’t cover the time when most radioactive waste put in the dump might leak into the environment.

”Any standard is inadequate if it doesn’t include the time when the risk to the public is the greatest,” Del Papa and Guinn said in a news release on the lawsuit filed in the San Francisco-based federal appeals court.

The lawsuit also challenges part of the EPA rule that would let the federal Department of Energy pollute part of the Amargosa aquifer, the large groundwater area beneath the Yucca Mountain site.

”To set a standard that allows DOE to use a portion of one of the most important aquifers in Nevada to dilute and disperse radiation from the repository not only violates state law but is simply unacceptable,” Del Papa said.

The standard ”appears to be designed to allow the repository to pass judgment notwithstanding its major scientific flaws,” Guinn added.

In related developments, preliminary results of state testing suggest the DOE’s calculations on direction and speed of ground water at Yucca Mountain could be wrong.

That means radiation from 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste that might wind up at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, could escape and expose people sooner than 10,000 years, the life span set for the repository by federal law.

Linda Lehman, a state hydrologist who conducted the research, said that could make Yucca Mountain unable to meet the new EPA guidelines for the amount of radiation that can escape through ground water.

The DOE, which has spent $7 billion and 20 years studying the dump site, plans to include the state’s ground water model in its final calculations as it prepares to recommend whether Yucca Mountain is suitable for a dump.

Robert Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects and Lehman’s boss, said it’s unclear how the state’s new conclusions might affect the DOE’s recommendations.

Yucca Mountain is the only site under study as a U.S. nuclear waste repository. Nevada opposes the repository, estimated to cost $58 billion to complete. It would accept waste in 2010 at the earliest, if the site is found scientifically suitable.

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