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|OCTOBER 15, 1998
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Michael Mariotte, 202-328-0002
Susan Gordon, 206-547-3175
|Controversial New Energy Department Survey Tries To Intimidate And Catalog Nuclear Opponents|
October 15 - A decade ago, the Department of Energy tried to argue that opponents of
atomic energy were somehow psychologically unbalanced. That didn't fly. Just a few years
ago, then-Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary categorized the media as friends and foes. That
didn't sit well either.
Now, the DOE is trying a similar tactic on opponents of radioactive waste dumps and unnecessary radioactive waste transportation. If you can't beat 'em, DOE seems to be saying, track 'em, follow 'em, check their funding and intimidate 'em.
A new DOE survey, done under the auspices of contractors Booz, Allen, Hamilton and the University of New Mexico, is apparently aimed at discovering the depth of opposition to nuclear industry and DOE-supported plans to begin transport of high-level atomic waste across the nation to a "temporary" storage dump in Nevada.
This atomic industry sponsored effort has been approved by the past two Congresses, but by too slim a majority to override a promised presidential veto. Thus the bills-popularly known as "Mobile Chernobyl"--have died before being presented to the President.
Now, the DOE is trying to find out what might happen if the bills are eventually enacted. According to environmental activists across the country, their approach is intended not to learn, but to harass and intimidate.
The questionnaire presented on behalf of DOE does not attempt to measure public opinion. Rather, it is aimed only at organizations critical of nuclear policies and asks questions such as: "how often has your organization provided training for protest (civil disobedience/training for police confrontation)?.... participated in litigation over spent nuclear fuel issues?...how is the organization funded?.... How effective are you in convincing policy makers in the U.S. Congress?" and other questions clearly not intended to implement a sound, scientifically-defensible answer to nuclear waste problems, but to gauge the level and effectiveness of opposition to the existing unacceptable options promoted by the nuclear power industry.
"Rather than acting like some 1960's FBI COINTELPRO operation on behalf of the nuclear power industry, DOE should be asking itself: what is the most scientifically-appropriate means of radioactive waste storage?" said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). "But the DOE isn't interested in science or suitable waste technologies, they want only to know how great is the opposition to their plans. Well, I can tell them without a survey: if the DOE and the nuclear power industry try to move high-level atomic waste across our nation's highways or railways, we will be there to challenge them."
Numerous environmental groups objected both to the tone of the survey and the manner in which it is being carried out.
"People are simply being telephoned, and asked to speak on behalf of their organizations," said Susan Gordon of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a coalition of more than 30 citizens groups around DOE nuclear weapons plants. "This suggests that DOE doesn't really want to talk to the leaders of the movement against unsafe radioactive waste storage, and may mean that the survey results are likely to be dead wrong. Further, the government has no business asking such absurd questions of our groups. Can you imagine DOE asking similar questions of the nuclear industry's trade associations?"
"This survey is typical DOE," said Mariotte. "It is both inappropriate and will produce no useful information for anyone. Opposition to the DOE/nuclear industry plans is based on real scientific concerns and no survey will invalidate those. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that not only is "interim" storage of high-level waste at Yucca Mountain absolutely inappropriate, but that site is not suitable for permanent storage of this waste either.
"The sad fact is that DOE must now start over, and develop an entirely new radioactive waste policy," Mariotte continued. "But DOE would rather try to smear the organizations that have pointed out this reality than admit its work has gone for naught.
"The dilemma is simple and real: Yucca Mountain cannot be used for radioactive waste storage of any kind. And all of DOE's smears can't change that simple fact," said Mariotte. "If DOE wants to do something productive, it will stop trying to pretend it's the FBI, and will instead put its scientists on developing some new radioactive waste options."
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