Petitions challenge Yucca license bid

Following Nevada's lead, Clark County and a nonprofit Timbisha Shoshone corporation filed petitions Monday challenging the Department of Energy's license application for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

"In a nutshell, we're challenging DOE's capacity to construct and operate a safe repository," said Irene Navis, Clark County's nuclear waste planning manager.

The county submitted 15 contentions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, she said. All but three deal with safety issues related to DOE's performance assessment of the planned repository and the validity of computer models for the site, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Like the Nevada attorney general's office, which filed 229 challenges last week to DOE's license application, Clark County's contentions focus on uncertainties about the corrosion of waste canisters and engineered barriers and the potential impact of volcanic activity that could send radioactive materials into the environment.

The county also has concerns about building a repository in light of Nevada Test Site missile testing and Nellis Air Force Base operations, Navis said.

Joe Kennedy, interim executive director of the Timbisha Shoshone Yucca Mountain Oversight Program Nonprofit Corp., said one of the three contentions he filed pertains to environmental justice.

"We've been trying to be on top of this stuff but it has been very difficult with the funding issues," Kennedy said. "We've been left out of the process."

He said Timbisha Shoshone are concerned about how the planned repository will affect land, air and water. "That is our law, as far as we're concerned, that governs all life on Earth."

Only recently did the tribe receive $209,000 in oversight funding from DOE as an affected party.

"We want to get as much input in as we possibly can and we want to make sure that we're involved every step of the way," Kennedy said.

The Native Community Action Council, based in the White Pine County community of Baker, also filed a petition to intervene in the licensing process as did the state of California.

Four rural Nevada counties -- Lander Churchill, Mineral and Esmeralda -- filed a joint petition to intervene.

Nye County has also filed a petition challenging assumptions about climate change and water infiltration at the site in addition to hazards posed by aircraft crashes.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.