WASHINGTON -- Work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, though performed by federal employees who apparently made up facts, was scientifically sound, an Energy Department report said yesterday.
But the work will be redone anyway because it did not comply with quality assurance rules. That will take months and could cost as much as several million dollars, said Paul Golan, acting director of the department's Office of Civilian Radioactive
''We need to move forward based on work that meets our quality standards. And if that means redeveloping this work, taking the time and incurring the cost to do that, we just need to do that," Golan told reporters on a conference call.
The Energy Department released the 144-page report nearly a year after disclosing the existence of e-mails written by US Geological Survey hydrologists indicating that they fabricated facts, deleted inconvenient data, and kept one set of documents for themselves and another for quality assurance officials.
The e-mails were written from 1998 through 2004 by scientists using computer models to determine how quickly precipitation could make its way through the dump site in the desert 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The dump is planned as a national repository for 77,000 tons of used commercial reactor fuel and defense waste waiting at sites in 39 states.
The Geological Survey validated Energy Department conclusions that water seepage was relatively slow, so radiation would be less likely to escape. That led Nevada lawmakers and other Yucca Mountain opponents to contend the scientists changed data to reach a predetermined conclusion.
The Energy Department's report, reviewed by three outside specialists, found no problems with the water infiltration rates estimated by the Geological Survey scientists. The conclusions were corroborated by other data and were comparable to findings by other scientists studying similar environments around the country, the report said. However, Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico will redo the computer models because quality assurance rules were not complied with, Golan said.