For immediate release, Monday, June 14, 2004


Energy Dept. is “rushing ahead with a defective Yucca Mountain design” says former U.S. nuclear waste technical review board member;

New article sites management parallels with space shuttle disasters

If the Department of Energy (DOE) pursues its present design, the nation’s proposed high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain, is likely to leak. This is the conclusion reported in a new article by Dr. Paul Craig, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. “Rush to Judgment at Yucca Mountain” is a cover story of the June issue of Science for Democratic Action, published by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).

In his article, Rush to Judgment at Yucca Mountain [1], Dr. Craig draws parallels between the mistakes made by NASA leading up to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters and DOE’s plans to dispose of high-level radioactive waste. “Lessons from NASA are generic,” explains Dr. Craig. “They apply to the Yucca Mountain project.” Among the similar management flaws he cites:

  • Poor design with the flaws often obvious from the outside;
  • Schedule-driven programs, which are “especially problematic when the science isn’t well understood as was the case with the shuttles and is the case with Yucca Mountain;”
  • Institutional arrogance.

DOE’s present design illustrates the first problem. The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board reported last year that DOE had chosen a repository environment in which the waste containment canisters are likely to corrode and leak.

Craig believes that a sound design is probably possible at Yucca Mountain. However, he warns that even if DOE developed a sound design, it is unclear whether that organization is institutionally competent to carry it out. His article concludes, “I do know that the worst approach is to ignore sound science. And that’s what DOE is doing at Yucca Mountain.”

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of IEER, added, “With the DOE in charge, there is no hope for a sound repository program.”


  1. The complete text of Dr. Craig’s article, Rush to Judgment at Yucca Mountain, is posted online (Science for Democratic Action Vol. 12, No. 3). IEER’s position on the issues is also summarized there. ↩ Return