WASHINGTON — E-mails by some government scientists on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project indicate they 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 Friday 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 were in a batch of correspondence released in advance of a hearing next week by the House Government Reform subcommittee on the federal work force and agency organization, chaired by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.
The Energy and Interior departments revealed the existence of the e-mails March 16, and inspectors general of both departments are investigating.
Yucca Mountain, approved by Congress in 2002, is planned as the nation's only 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.
Many Nevadans and some environmentalists say the materials can never be safely stored and the plan puts local residents at risk. There also are concerns among others outside the state that hauling all the waste to Nevada puts at risk those along the routes.
The e-mails were written from 1998 to 2000 and 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.
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey validated Energy Department conclusions that water seepage was relatively slow, so radiation would be less likely to escape.
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