What the Court Intended
Monday, July 19, 2004; Page A16
The July 10 editorial "Yucca Mountain" missed the key holding of the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The court ruled that the government had "unabashedly rejected" the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences in setting the primary radiation protection standard for Yucca, adopting instead a far more lenient standard that "the academy had expressly rejected."
In affirming a congressional design that deferred to science and human health, the court brought our radiation standard to the level of every other repository program in the world. While Yucca's porous geology may cause it not to meet that standard, many sites in America can. The world's only operating repository in New Mexico, for example, easily meets it.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act provides that if "at any time" the energy secretary determines Yucca to be unsuitable, he should report to Congress with suggested alternatives. It was in this context that the court invited a possible congressional resolution, not so that Congress could force-feed Yucca to the scientists.
JOSEPH R. EGAN
The writer is the lead attorney for the state of Nevada in litigation contesting the Yucca Mountain project.
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