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Statement From Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman

March 16, 2005 - 10:49am

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WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Energy has learned that certain employees of the US Geological Survey (USGS) at the Department of the Interior working on the Yucca Mountain project may have falsified documentation of their work. This documentation is required as part of the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s quality assurance programs that verify the accuracy and credibility of work that has been completed. This documentation in question relates to computer modeling involving water infiltration and climate.

“During the document review process associated with the Licensing Support Network preparation for the Yucca Mountain project, DOE contractors discovered multiple emails written between May 1998 and March 2000, in which a USGS employee indicated that he had fabricated documentation of his work.

“The Department of Energy has initiated a scientific investigation of the data and documentation that was part of this modeling activity. If in the course of that review any work is found to be deficient, it will be replaced or supplemented with analysis and documentation that meets appropriate quality assurance standards to ensure that the scientific basis of the project is sound. We are conducting a thorough review of all work completed by the identified individuals to ensure that other work was not affected. 

“Additionally, we have informed the US Geological Survey and the State of Nevada.   We have initiated an evaluation to determine if the systematic quality assurance improvements undertaken over the last four years are sufficient to prevent the reoccurrence of a similar situation. And we plan to reemphasize to project personnel the importance of strict adherence to quality assurance procedures.  

“I am greatly disturbed by the possibility that any of the work related to the Yucca Mountain Project may have been falsified. This behavior indicated in the emails is completely unacceptable, and I have referred this matter to the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General for full investigation. 

“The safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste and the sound scientific basis for the repository safety analysis are priorities for this Administration and the Department of Energy. All related decisions have been, and will continue to be, based on sound science. 

“The fact remains that this country needs a permanent geological nuclear waste repository, and the Administration will continue to aggressively pursue that goal.  We are committed to the safety and protection of the citizens of Nevada as we pursue the development of the Yucca Mountain project.”

Media contact:  Anne Womack-Kolton, 202/586-4940

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