- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005


E-mails by several government scientists on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project suggest workers were planning to fabricate records and manipulate results to ensure outcomes that would help the project move forward.

“I don’t have a clue when these programs were installed. So I’ve made up the dates and names,” wrote a U.S. Geological Survey employee in one e-mail released yesterday by a congressional committee investigating suspected document falsification on the project.

“This is as good as it’s going to get. If they need more proof, I will be happy to make up more stuff.”

In another message the same employee wrote to a colleague: “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.” QA apparently refers to “quality assurance.”

The e-mails, written from 1998 to 2000, were in a batch of correspondence released in advance of next week’s hearing by the House Government Reform subcommittee on the federal work force and agency organization, chaired by Rep. Jon Porter, Nevada Republican.

The Energy and Interior departments revealed the existence of the e-mails March 16, and inspectors general of both departments are investigating. The FBI also is conducting a probe, according to a subcommittee staffer.

Yucca Mountain, approved by Congress in 2002, is planned as the nation’s 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 beneath the Nevada desert, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The e-mails, dating from the Clinton administration, were circulated among a team of USGS scientists studying how water moves through the planned dump site, a key issue in determining whether and how much radiation could escape.

The emergence of the e-mails was the latest setback for Yucca Mountain, which has also suffered money 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.

The department’s concern about the e-mails is evident in a portion of an internal memo, apparently written around the time they were discovered, that was also released yesterday: “These e-mails may create a substantial vulnerability for the program.” A department spokeswoman declined comment on the memo or the contents of the e-mails because of the continuing investigations.

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